The Building Research Establishment (BRE) has launched a new sustainability index called ENVEST, a £2000 CD-ROM to enable architects to work out whether the buildings they design are environmentally sensitive or not.
Under the system, one hundred 'EcoPoints', is equivalent to the 'environmental impact of one UK citizen for a year', a benchmark of detrimental impact. Symbolically, this citizen-measure aims to show that we are all culpable and hence all responsible for change. The less points the better.
At an initial design meeting with the client, an architect inputs basic briefing information, presses a button and generates eight plan-forms which are displayed with their EcoPoints listed.
'Let's say, we choose the cruciform shape, ' said BRE's Prashant Kapoor. 'We can then go on to input more detail to highlight the ways of reducing the environmental impact even further. This is an ideal tool for lazy architects.'
Rab Bennetts praised the system as a return to 'form follows function . . .instead of form follows art and intellect.'
In this context the function of a building is social and environmental responsibility.
For example, the glass for Bennetts' Wessex Water Operations Centre scheme had to come from abroad, but he insisted that it came from a region that used hydro-electric power, to ensure that it caused minimum environmental impact.