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Changes to sustainability education essential


It is important to clarify what RIBA president George Ferguson meant when he said: 'We need a definition of sustainability that contains design quality at its core. Design quality and sustainability should be inextricably linked.' (AJ 2.10.03) Historically, 20th-century visionaries contributed to our sustainable living discussion.

Ebenezer Howard's Garden City concept advocated moderately sized cities where central parkland was surrounded by housing and the factories were to be on the outskirts, all enclosed by the city's green belt. They were selfcontained and capable of all the functions of an urban community. People worked, lived and farmed in the same town. The circular metabolism of taking food from the land and returning fertility to the soil is one of the major practices in sustainability.

Walkability is another.

In the 21st century, the vision of sustainable models has expanded from a concern with manipulating or improving the physical environment to a more scientific, technocratic end product. Applications of renewable energy technologies, water recycling, carbon-zero, carbon-neutral developments are basic practices to achieve the sustainable goal.

Promoting sustainability should not be just a moral crusade. Environmental analysis and renewable energy technologies are tools for architects to achieve sustainable goals. Our understanding of sustainability should balance the present with the future and with the past, with the aim of benefiting future generations. Moving from rhetoric to reality requires cultural changes and changes in the way we design, deliver and operate the built environment.

'To put design quality at the forefront of the government's Sustainable Communities Plan' or 'design quality and sustainability should be inextricably linked' (AJ 2.10.03) are not easy to achieve without substantial changes in our educational system and our practical habits.

Graduates leaving our architectural schools need to be artists, builders, graphic designers and, at the same time, scientists.

Kem F To, Lincoln

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