In an environment where energy supplies are becoming increasingly scarce and sustainability is high on the policy agenda, sustainable architecture is no longer an extra - it is becoming a given. Our clients are demanding it, therefore our architectural schools should be demanding sustainable and renewable thinking from students as part of their response to project challenges.
Sustainability has introduced a vital third element into the formand-function design equation. Architects must increasingly acknowledge the broader agenda, harnessing new sustainable technologies and looking at ways that buildings can be adapted - for example, generating their own energy from renewable sources.
The buildings we create should treat their waste on site, incorporate materials with low-embodied energy and exploit natural - and free - resources to heat, cool, ventilate, and provide light.
Far from being a constraint on design, the sustainability imperative encourages architects to apply creative intelligence to overcome major challenges as they bring a design drawing to reality. All around us, sustainable designs are becoming world-class examples of inspirational and effective architecture.
Does sustainability come at a cost premium? It can do, but it doesn't always have to. Careful design and planning can have a genuine impact on sustainability performance, free of charge. For example, building orientation can achieve cross-ventilation and enhanced daylight penetration. Sustainable materials are also becoming more affordable - increasing demand combined with greater availability means costs are no longer so high.
As architects, it is our role to keep bang up to date with sustainable best practice and add to its ongoing innovation. We also need to help boost understanding of sustainability on a wider scale and to drive public acceptance. I say this not just because it is right to incorporate sustainable practice in our work for social reasons, but also because it is rapidly becoming a key commercial driver. Ignore it at our peril.