Week Nine

construction waste


Introduction to Sustainability Studies

Sustainability has grown from being tossed around as a buzzword to being recognized underlying issue that is almost so obvious a concern in the face of climate change that it hardly needs to be articulated as a prevailing issue in architectural education and practice. Yet there is more to sustainability than the cost- and energy-saving measures that are oftentimes at the forefront of people's minds when they think about sustainability (important as they are). For the next few weeks, we will study several of the facets of sustainability as associated with architectural design.

The Week at a Glance

Before you proceed with this week, make sure to finish last week by:

  • writing (doing a mind-dump) in your personal journal for at least 15 minutes--distill the whole week into what seems most important to you
  • distilling what you wrote in your journal in the "Journaling" exercise for Week 08 on Blackboard

For an overview of the week to come,

To successfully complete the ninth week of the semester in ARC 1015, follow these steps:

(1) Work through the narrative and activities that follow on this page, noting the following upcoming due dates.

  • Friday: begin the intro to sustainability worksheet (have it mostly or all filled out by class on Tuesday; keep adding to it through the end of the semester); complete your work updating the mind map in the ePortfolio
  • Monday: complete the second part of your vernacular project (PDF)
  • NOTE: assignments are always due at 11:11 AM on the specified date--unless you receive specific directions otherwise

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • Cite the realms of sustainability and general practices related to them [REMEMBER].
  • Interpret manifestations of the realms of sustainability in a variety of approaches to architecture [UNDERSTAND].
  • Recognize opportunities for service and vocation, understood in the context of Christian traditions, within the context of twenty-first century architectural practices [UNDERSTAND].

for Friday

Revisit the Mind Map in the ePortfolio

As a reminder, you should complete the "mind map" exercise described in the In-Class section of last week's web page, by today at 11:11.

for Friday

Three Realms & General Principles

The term sustainability usually prompts initial and immediate associations with environmental concerns. Although the architectural community has engaged the ideal of sustainability increasingly in the most recent decades with an awareness to mitigate the affects of climate change, the roots of this thinking go back at least as far as the energy crisis of 1973, if not earlier. While it's not wrong to think of sustainability with this emphasis, we should understand it is just that--one emphasis among other issues. The term actually is broader, and addresses the means by which we

meet current economic, environmental, and social needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own economic, environmental, and social needs.

Architectural sustainability addresses how we accomplish that three-pronged goal through the design of buildings and cities. In an interesting parallel to Vitruvius' ideals from earlier in the semester, the goal is not to address one or two of the issues, but rather to design in a way that ensures that all three divisions are met, for the efficacy shown in this diagram:

An environment in harmony with society is satisfactory ("bearable"); balancing economic needs while serving environmental concerns promises a viable future; achieving economic goals that address all of society creates equity.

Sustainability can be viewed as having particular interest for people of faith. From a Biblical perspective, Christians are directed to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Gen. 1:27-28). This "dominion" reflects God's original relationship to Creation. We are directed to harness and protect the resources of the world. Similar care for our financial resources is found throughout the Scriptures including "In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has" (Prov. 21:20). Finally, the Bible is replete with admonitions to care for people (indeed, that is its central message):

"Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (Hebrews 13:16)

"Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." (Romans 12:13)

"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act." (Proverbs 3:27)

"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4)

And finally: "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me" (Matthew 25:44 - 45).

General Principles

The earliest and, in some circles, most prevalent aspect of sustainability responds to environmental concerns. Groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have advocated for environmental policy for a half-century (you can read about its objectives and methods here), while global efforts are led by such groups as the United Nations, which gathered 55 signatories for the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2016. While all sectors are called upon to address climate change, architecture has its own special place. So important is this goal that the most recent NAAB standards for architectural education require that programs instill in students "a holistic understanding of the dynamic between built and natural environments, enabling future architects to mitigate climate change responsibly by leveraging ecological, advanced building performance, adaptation, and resilience principles in their work and advocacy activities" (PC.3 Ecological Knowledge and Responsibility). Pursuant to this goal, please review:

for Monday

Traditional Practices

It's more than a little ironic that so often architects, builders, and developers imagine the only way to solve a problem that, in part, was cased by an over-abundance of faith in technology, can only be solved by an over-abundance of faith in innovative building systems and new construction. While many advances can be credited to smart new inventions, a vast corpus of naturally, fundamentally, un-self-consciously sustainable architecture has been built worldwide, and is ready to teach us if only we would stop and listen.

Long neglected as little more than an object of anthropological curiosity, vernacular architecture is increasingly seen as the root of natural, literally organic sustainability. As we have seen, long before the Industrial Revolution, anonymous builders perfected typologies that were eminently suited to local climatic conditions and cultural needs and were built by locally-sourced, readily-available materials. Watch the sections of the next two videos as noted to hear how Prof. Avlokita Agrawal of the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (India's number-one rated architecture school), explains the natural sustainability of vernacular architecture.

Start the next one at 19:30

Notable examples of projects designed according to vernacular principles are rising all over the world. In the United States, an important precedent in this kind of work was accomplished with the Katrina Cottage, designed by Marianne Cusato following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In Camaroon, there is this "integrated, community-driven village." Farther away, a leader in vernacular design is Yasmeen Lari. Watch this video on her work:

Having absorbed this new consideration of very old building principles, I hope you'll return to the subject of your vernacular project and see it with new eyes.

for Tuesday

Attend Class:

on campus

Note: when you come to campus, please bring a table label with your name on it (a regular piece of paper folded longwise will work; you can be more creative, if you like), and a wifi enabled device (ideally laptop or tablet)

Anna, Katellen, Ryan M., Lauren, Paige, Jason, Benjamin, Jesse, Brendon, TJ, Tess, Sierra, Kayli

  • (3:30) Updates & Observations (lecture/program opportunities, test 2, etc.)
  • (3:45) Sustainability: the three realms; learning objectives for the next several weeks
    • a note about technological determinism
  • (4:15) Break into groups to start project (due Monday)
  • (5:00) Reconvene
    • an announcement: launching a student chapter of Habitat for Humanity
    • questions on the project
  • (5:15) Journaling


Rachel, Melanie, Heidi, Sarah, Peyton, Emma, Honor, Anthony, Dylan, Harrison, Ryan P., Reggie, Keily, Taylor, Nathan, Chase


  • (3:30) Updates & Observations (lecture/program opportunities, test 2, etc.)
  • (3:45) Sustainability: the three realms; learning objectives for the next several weeks
    • a note about technological determinism
  • (4:15) Break into groups to start project (due Monday)
  • (5:00) Reconvene
    • an announcement: launching a student chapter of Habitat for Humanity
    • questions on the project
  • (5:15) Journaling

group work:

See Blackboard > Projects > Project 3: AIA COTE