Sustainable Regional Architecture

In our technology driven society today, we are constantly bombarded with various forms of media, whether it be social, news, advertising, etc. Our world has become so much larger (or smaller, depending on how you look at it) with relation to the time before the internet.

For architecture, and our built environment, in general, this allows us to build with an endless network of building products is at our disposal.  As designers, it is our responsibility to cull through this information and set standards for our individual practices as to what’s really important and relevant for our clients.  They are looking to us for guidance, as we are seen as experts in the field of building.  It is our responsibility, then, to use our influence in a positive light, to recommend products and materials that are socially and environmentally responsible for the life-cycle of the material. (Lifecycle building is the design of building materials, components, information systems, and management practices to create buildings that facilitate and anticipate future changes to and eventual adaptation or dismantling for recovery of all systems, components, and materials. http://www.lifecyclebuilding.org/). Material recyclability plays an important role in the life-cycle of a material, as an example.

Palmyra House

Palmyra House - Mumbai, India

Locally sourced building materials and products is another tried and true method to building responsibly, as transportation costs & fuel consumption can sometimes be a big factor in the selection of a material, with regard to total cost.  Local building practices can sometimes stray from the traditional ideals of regional building, so perhaps historic building precedents can be a good source to examine construction materials, methods, techniques, etc., with regard to local sourcing. Here’s a good example of a project in Mumbai that takes advantage of local site materials on inhabit.com’s website.  I understand locally sourced projects are not always feasible, or easily accomplished.  In the United States, local sourcing becomes increasingly more difficult due to bureaucratic building construction regulation’s effects on standardizing materials.

Aillet House, ca. 1830 - Louisiana

Don’t misunderstand me, though.  I am not opposed to using building technology and advanced building materials. As a designer, I feel we must, however, use these new and innovative materials for the right reasons, asking “How will this material better the project?” or “Is this material the best choice for this application?”.  In my experience, the most successful projects are those that marry a host of materials and technologies, old and new, complimenting each other throughout the project. So much more than those projects that are pigeon-holed into the boundaries of a certain “material palette”, these “gumbo projects” can exude greater character, leading to a much more successful composition and, as a result, a satisfied client!

Ames Cottage - San Francisco, CA (Boor Bridges Architects)

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