Our ‘Seductive Sustainability’ Event (2006)

Speakers
Ingrid Chauvet – Director, Sponge Sustainability Network – Introduction to Sponge
Richard Cochrane – Director, XCo2 – Quietrevolution wind turbine
Jane Durney – Bioregional – One Planet Living
Liam Russell – Senior Associate, Lomax Cassidy & Edwards – Brighton Library
Brian Murphy – Director, National Green Specification – Introducing NGS
John-Paul Frazer – Director, Exergy Design ltd – Sailable Architecture

See also: BRE, Seufert Niklaus timber systems, secondnature sheepswool insulation, Bertran Piccard’s solar plane.

Discussion
Can the two positions, which have been polarised for so long, be reconciled?
Can gorgeous and glamorous architecture be sustainable?
Can unsustainable architecture be considered seductive?

Some would argue that the sustainability agenda is anti-architecture – an unwelcome imposition born of fear, limiting our design capacity. Others, that ‘unsustainable’ architecture cannot be considered anything but a crime – as Hundertwasser said, ” the physical incarnation of a criminal act”.

To paraphrase the ancient Athenians, sustainable design is surely the only way to leave our world “not less but greater, better and more beautiful than it was left to us”.

Review by Claire Truman
Need environmentally conscious buildings and products be quite so ‘hairy’ as straw bales suggest? Can design be guilt-free AND urban chic? Six quick-fire presentations on buildings, concepts and products launched the second event in the series, and threw the debate open to the well-crowded basement floor of Jaguar Shoes.

Can buildings ever replace the embodied energy taken to produce the building? – the Millennium Seed Bank, presented by structural engineer Ingrid Chauvet, took the (very) long-term view – constructed for a 500 year design life. Sophistication drove the design of the Brighton Library, by Lomax Cassidy & Edwards, which celebrated its books, rather than its wind cowl, requiring only the equivalent energy use of 4 bed family house. Liam Russell courted controversy by wearing a suit.

Jane Durney of Bioregional presented the concept of One Planet Living – giving every earth-dweller the same share of the planet’s resources, and designing a lifestyle to match – producing zero carbon dioxide and zero waste. Making a strong case that technology can be elegant, Richard Cochrane showed XCo2’s QuietRevolution sinuous wind turbine, developed specifically for use in urban areas. Brian Murphy presented several attractive products listed on the National Green Specification, with rammed earth standing out as the most sensuous construction material. John-Paul Frazer gave a whirlwind finale using Christina Aguilera and George Clooney to prove that sustainable architecture can take inspiration from nature to be more sexy – and should, because sex sells.

Hot debate followed with the audience invited to rate each project, product or concept along axes from Toxic to Sustainable, and Turn-off to Seductive. XCo2’s gorgeous wind turbine came out the audience’s clear favourite, with the Gherkin going home with the asbestos spoon amid accusations of ‘seductive toxicity’. Everyone in that steamy basement had their own priorities and concepts of just what ‘sustainable’ is and what the solutions might be, but it was evident that we can face up to the challenges of a sustainable future and have our guilt-free indulgent, sensuous, sexy designs. Precedents had been set and a bar had been raised.

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