In May last year you were kind enough to publish my letter ‘Quality Thinking’, which I ended with: “Quality and sustainability are two sides of the same coin. Toss it and you can only win.”

Time passes and things are deteriorating rapidly, simply because we have failed to grasp this concept throughout society. Ian Lyall in March’s ‘Last Word’ says that “sustainability and quality can go hand in hand”, as if they were two separate things.

In the West, we feel that we need to put things in separate boxes. This reductionist approach is leading to the collapse of our societies. Sustainability and quality are not different things, neither are they destinations we can reach or a set of technologies and tools and we can incorporate into projects.

They are the same thing: a journey of improvement leading to a continual reduction in the ‘loss to society’ that results from the creation, use and disposal of the products and services we consume.

We can view this as working to continually reduce the resource intensity of the built environment for the value we add.

We have painted ourselves into a corner. There are no such things as ‘green’ jobs or organisations. There are only those that will lead to a reduction in resource intensity. This will be brought about more by management than tools and technologies.

Unless we shift our viewpoint we are doomed to fail, but one thing is certain; humans are innately enterprising, and the organisations that understand the comments above are the ones that stand the best chance of inheriting the future.

You are welcome to join this debate online at Building Towards Sustainability ( and Keeping Ahead of the Oil Curve (

Derek Deighton, Trailblazer Business Futures, CIBSE Low Carbon Consultant