Progress in sustainability depends on getting the details right. Optimistic designs full of red and blue arrows will not save a single gram of carbon. Advances will only come if our buildings are properly designed, built and monitored. That is why the next iteration of Part L will be concerned with ensuring that what is intended is actually delivered
It is also why the work by simulation company IES, taking a first step to compare the methodology of the world’s three leading sustainability rating schemes, is so important. If we know how BREEAM compares with LEED compares with Green Star, we will be a step nearer to learning from what is going on in other countries.
The importance of detail does not mean that we should turn our back on big ideas. Rupert Soar, academic and pioneer of rapid prototyping, has looked closely at the way that termite mounds behave, and concluded that they “breathe” in much the same way that our lungs do. His next leap of imagination is to propose that we build a similar breathing structure into the walls of our homes, allowing us to ventilate them effectively with minimal heat loss or requirement for mechanical ventilation.
Questions immediately spring to mind. Will the British builder be able to cope? What happens if we want to undertake modest home improvements or just knock a nail in the wall?
If Soar’s ideas are ever to approach fruition, these issues will need to be tackled, and the kind of punctilious thinking that improves Part L or compares accreditation schemes will have to be grafted on to Soar’s endearing hand-waving enthusiasm. But radical solutions will be needed if we are to revolutionise buildings’ carbon consumption. How ironic it would be if this new vision were to evolve thanks to the diligent, blind termite.
Building Sustainable Design