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Sustainable oxymoron beginning to make sense

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Letters

I must comment on the unsustainability of one of Martin Pawley's arguments (AJ 6.7.00). Firstly, to put the record straight, the definition of sustainability which he attributes to me was a paraphrase of the Brundtland definition which I have quoted on numerous occasions in order to criticise it. Therefore I must agree with his objections. My own definition, which will be considered by the RIBA Council on 19 July, is somewhat longer.

Sustainable development is development which raises the quality of life and serves the goal of achieving global equity in the distribution of the Earth's resources, while conserving its natural capital and achieving significant reductions in all forms of pollution, especially emissions of greenhouse gases.

True, there is something 'oxymoronic' about the term 'sustainable architecture'. Realistically we should at this stage be talking less unsustainable building. However, it is not inconceivable that, in the near future, buildings will rely largely on renewable and recycled materials and be autonomous in terms of energy.

Indeed the next generation of costeffective photovoltaic cells should enable buildings to become net contributors to the grid. That brings us nearer the goal of sustainability.

Professor Peter F Smith, chairman, RIBA Sustainable Futures Committee

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