The Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) has compiled a book of 100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings (100SSB’s) to promote a more responsible approach to design. SEDA was founded in 1991 and began work on the book in 2016 to celebrate their 25 year anniversary. We asked Richard Atkins, co-editor of the book, to explain how the book came about and what it aims to achieve.
The book will be formally launched on 28th September 2017 , tickets are free and available here.
100 Sustainable Scottish Buildings publication
This book marks a landmark in gathering together examples of different building types, from different eras which exemplify a more thoughtful response to social, economic and environmental sustainability. Together with 5 short essays on various sustainability issues the book has a forward by Robin Harper, the UKs first ‘Green’ parliamentarian and SEDA’s patron, who says:
Architecture is at the centre of our everyday lives. It surrounds us, protects and inspires us, affects our moods, our health, our thinking. This book is not about who is ‘best’; it is more important. It is a celebration of new ideas, of ingenuity, imagination, philosophy and art, a tribute to creativity, joyfulness, human scale design, an expression of our dedication to live with nature and the flow of life, to be genuinely sustainable in every possible way.
I hope this volume lands up in the libraries of every art school, school of architecture, education establishment of every kind, and on the desks of every council planning department chief, developer and every councillor in Scotland. This is not a coffee table exercise, this is an inspiration to be metaphorically inhaled for the sake of the oxygen of the ideas it contains.
Housing features strongly in 100SSB’s, reflecting the fact that housing forms the majority of the built environment and that both individual clients and particularly social landlords are most likely to aspire to addressing those needs which go beyond just creating shelter, for either the lowest cost or to generate the greatest profit relative to initial capital cost.
100SSB’s aims to dispel a few myths. That sustainability is a hair shirt to be endured, that it equates to a narrow set of aesthetic choices, that it costs more money and that it is all about carbon emissions. It ain’t.
The term sustainability has been muddied over the years and is used interchangeably to mean everything from preserving economic growth to hitting somewhat arbitrary targets set by rating tools, but as a concept sustainability is remarkably simple.
There are many aspects of the modern world that are pretty good for many people, such as access to clean water, abundant food, education, medicine and of course safe comfortable housing. These have been achieved through the ingenuity of mankind in exploiting resources and developing social and economic systems.
Equally there are aspects which are iniquitous or just downright dangerous, such as the increasingly rapid use of limited resources leading to increasing levels of waste and pollution.
Changing Urban Habits
The result of mankind’s success in exploiting the planet has come with a shift from a predominately agrarian society to an increasingly urban one. Urbanisation has made the built environment ubiquitous and has broken the direct link between environment and wellbeing for more than half of the world’s population increasing pressure on social and economic structures.
Threats to our way of life, which 100 years ago were insignificant or even non-existent are now the subject of scientific study, resulting in calls that intervention is required on a global scale. Rolling back industrialisation and urbanisation is neither possible nor desirable. What we must do is devise sustainable ways of preserving the benefits of the modern world, while dealing with the unintended, and undesirable, consequences.
Each of the projects in 100SSB’s responds to one or more of these unintended consequences, whether by reducing dependence on non-renewable resources, minimising building toxicity, acting as a catalyst for economic development, or responding to a gap in social provision.