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AJ Footprint exclusive: Howard Liddell on his OBE

Howard Liddell tells the AJ about his forthcoming projects and what having his contribution to sustainable architecture recognised means to him

What does the OBE mean to you?

Primarily the OBE means recognition for the Scottish Ecological Design Association (SEDA) and its body of work over two decades. Given the struggle to get sustainable development into the mainstream over this period, the acknowledgement of the work of myself and my old friend Bill Bordass (who was also awarded an OBE) being of value is especially important to us.

If this is a precursor to the construction industry starting to realize that sustainability is not a mere additional box to tick – but an opportunity for it to make a positive and permanent sea change in its approach - then it will indeed be of real value. Although I’m not holding my breath.

What particular achievements in 2012 won this recognition?

I imagine, and indeed hope, that this honour relates to more than anything I did in 2012 – albeit it was a satisfying year in which a few awards were forthcoming for Gaia’s buildings. I would expect the citation to be an acknowledgment of the status that SEDA has achieved over the years as an honest broker – working hard without fear or favour to any vested interests - and taking on the important challenge of identifying the real green initiatives and promoting them as such.

What are your current active projects?

In 2012 together with Arup we completed the monitoring of Acharacle School with some very satisfying results.

We are just completing defects liability period of the Forestry Commission’s Glentress Visitor Centre – which has already won a few design and architectural awards. We have felt for some time that the “worthy green awards” have got in the way of our buildings being acknowledged for their architectural merit and both this and the Plummerswood House have broken through this “green ceiling”. The Plummerswood House, a brettstapel Passivhaus, won the House of the Year award for Architectural Excellence.

And key aspirations closest to your heart for 2013?

As we have seen endless missed opportunities, greenwash and tokenism gain sway over the past 20 years Bill and I - and others we respect - have spent 2012 saying “the bad guys are winning”. To be given a glimmer of hope that this might change would be all I would ask for 2013.  Ours is an industry that has come to focus on the price of everything and the value of nothing. When I started as an architect in the 70s and we still had a proper profession, with ethics at its forefront, this was not the case.

On a more practical note I am looking forward to completing the second edition of Eco-minimalism (due out in March) and then getting stuck into my next venture, a book entitled Eco-max: the carbon-free papers in which the words carbon and energy are banned – this book deals with the rest of the much ignored agenda of sustainability.

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[1]House of the Year – award for Architectural Excellence 2012 – UK’s first Brettstapel Passive House.

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