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I support the view that buildings that claim to have exemplary green credentials are not implicitly beyond reproach (AJ 20.07.06), but take issue with the notion that 'the most absurd manifestation of the quest for the holy green grail is the exemplar project'.

This argument implies that exemplar buildings cannot lay claim to their raison d'être for any length of time. That they therefore commit the worst sin against sustainability: waste. But the rationale for many exemplar buildings is precisely to avoid waste.

In my view the cardinal sin is the exemplar building which comes covered with so much greenwash it is impossible to differentiate between marketing hype and reality. But the increasing adoption of BREEAM ratings, together with the introduction by 2009 of building energy-labelling and certification, will help reduce spin and rhetoric and deliver genuine exemplars.

By trialling new designs, novel technologies and materials, and monitoring energy performance and occupant satisfaction, the exemplar building provides us with valuable knowledge that will inform and improve future design, allowing architecture to evolve.

But exemplar buildings are by definition prototypes, and if they are to add any real value it is vital that performance-in-use is objectively assessed and analysed and the results disseminated.

At the moment this seldom happens and we are failing to learn the lessons which could deliver better buildings.

David Strong, managing director, BRE Environment

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