Role of Architecture in Environmental Ethics
Thesis Statement: Architecture has played a significant role in protection and conservation of the environment through its ethical and moral considerations that are beyond building and construction to activities that embrace agenda of environmental ethics.
Environmental ethics provide decisive ethical design system to architecture. Both architecture and environment have a novelty, hence providing a new as well as a potentially critical consideration of aesthetics of architecture. There have been continuous concerted efforts directed to engage many built environment professionals, public and policy makers to a debate in order to reach sustainability as well as environmentally responsible policies on table (Stevens 15). Realizing threats posed on environment, real or potential, environmental movements have started in almost all sectors in most industrialized nations. These impacts have been felt in business, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and architecture. Environmental ethics are defined as moral relations associated with human beings and natural environment. Humanity considers protecting and utilizing natural resources provided by the earth in the most effective way. Architecture has not been left behind in efforts to sustain the environment (Caicco 13). Morals altogether with ethical considerations considered by most architects go beyond building itself. Architects have been using communities in design and constructions of buildings and continue to embrace environmental agendas. As much as human beings would wish to explore their environment through architectural modifications, it is vital to consider all environmental ethics. Architecture has played a significant role in protection and conservation of the environment through its ethical and moral considerations that are beyond building and construction to activities that embrace agenda of environmental ethics.
Professional concerns of the present day architects include responses to various pressing challenges in time. Architects have constantly been involved in quality-of-life improvements through environmental conservation and this has been considered as a vital path for survival. For instance, landscape architecture tends to embrace major ethical values in recognition as well as understanding that global environmental issues apply to all forms of human beings. Landscape architects have been responsible in creation of sensitivity in arranging and relating elements of natural and built environments, hence demanding for extensive knowledge in design theory, commitment to stewardship and technical competence of natural, human and constructed resources (Caicco 18). In current times, practices involving environmental sustainability, management of information, facilitating decision-making and assuming conservation leadership have become prominent altogether with resource management. A good example is California that requires all landscape architects registered with Landscape Architects Technical Committee (LATC). LATC ensures responsibility for protection of safety, public’s health and welfare (Stevens 22). This is an indication of architects’ commitment towards environmental protection and conservation that is part of environmental ethics.
Architectural professionals have accepted that as much as their activities improve economic status of nations, much is used from the global environment. Moreover, expansion of economic status of nations increases demand for architectural resources such as land, building products, and energy among other resources. This has in return increased combined effects of architectural activities in global ecosystem made up of living organisms, inorganic elements and human beings. “In modern society, more than 70% of a person’s lifespan is spent indoors. An essential role of architecture is to provide built environments that sustain occupants’ safety, health, physiological comfort, psychological well-being, and productivity” (Fewings, 33). Therefore, architects have engaged in sustainable designs in order to come up with several architectural solutions guaranteeing well-being as well as co-existence of constituent groups in the environment. Architects have been undergoing education in order to meet goals of coexistence through conceptual frameworks. They have developed principles, methods and strategies corresponding to objectives of education in architectural environment (Piers 489). This has been possible through creation of environmental awareness, explanation of building ecosystem altogether with teaching ways of designing sustainable buildings.
Most importantly, architects have adopted three principles in enhancing sustainability of the environment as well as their architectural operation continuity. These principles include economy of resources, life-cycle design and human design. Economy of resources involves reduction, recycling and reuse of natural resources that act as inputs to buildings. Life-cycle design offers a methodology to enable analyzing building processes along with their impacts on environment. Human design engages interactions between human beings and their natural world. The principles offer broad awareness of environmental impacts at local and global levels of architectural consumption (Caicco 23). Every principle embodies unique strategies. Architects are required to have knowledge of these strategies to enhance effective interactions with greater environment. Moreover, this allows for further disaggregate along with analysis of specific methods applied by architects to reduce environmental impacts of building designs. Architecture has shown its direct involvement in enhancing environmental ethics by developing the three principles of environmental conservation.
Through economization of resources, architects reduce utilization of nonrenewable resources. This happens in both operation and construction of buildings. In this case, there are continuous flows of resources, both manufactured and natural, in and out a building. The flow starts with production of materials used in building and goes on throughout building’s life span in order to create the environment for sustenance of human welfare and activities. Therefore, after a useful life of a building, it is expected to turn out as components of other buildings. This is referred to as the “law of resource flow conservation” (Fewings, 47). The three strategies involved in economy of resource principle include water conservation, material conservation and energy conservation. Life-cycle design in architecture is a linear process incorporating four stages that include construction, maintenance, design and operation. Analyzing building processes in every stage offers better understanding of impacts of building, operations, disposal and construction on larger ecosystem. Human design is mostly concerned with livability of constituents of global ecosystem that includes plants and wildlife. The principles originate from humanitarian as well as altruistic goals of respecting dignity and life of living organisms that are part of the environment (Fisher 12). Further researches have indicated that human design principle in architecture originates from need to preserve chain elements of ecosystems, which allow human survival.
Many states have taken responsibility of the environment whenever building and construction are carried out. They have adopted some of the most sustainable building standards to become part of their building codes at local levels. For example, the Oregon Energy Efficiency enacted in 2010 applies to all buildings and renovations projects that require building permits. This is a local initiative of International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). In this case California has enacted the initial worldwide green building code as well as Massachusetts compliance with the LEED requirements (Ostwald 197). This has also been through self-certification by the Green Guide for Health Care (GGHC) in attempts to acquire Determination of Need of health care facility. The trend is rapidly gaining momentum. These codes perform several responsibilities in enhancing environmental ethics (David 24). They ensure effectiveness in site development altogether with land use, material resource conservations and efficiency, water resource conservation, indoor environmental quality and energy conservation. Architects are also required to consider climate change legislations. This influences types of projects pursued in building and construction industries. Considering significant benefits to environment resulting from sustainable practices in building and construction in many nations, potential contribution of health care sector tends to be proportionally large. Most sustainable building practices lead to improved performance in three dimensions. These are environmental, health and community and economic dimensions. Several environmental benefits accrue from sustainable architectural activities including reduced solid waste, improved water and air quality, enhancement of ecosystems alongside biodiversity and conservation of most natural resources (25). This is an indication that architectural activities have been incorporated into environmental protection and conservation.
There has been increasing demands for energy sustainability and efficiency in buildings. In this case, museum buildings are not an exception. Demand has increased innovation and research projects on various passive ways of control on indoor climate. This does not only focus on providing human sustainability, but also collection conservation. Old and new constructions can be able to control climate changes in passive ways. It is reported that old buildings responded to climatic conditions passively since they had architectural characteristics that contributed to good thermal performance (Fussel, and Klein 320). Smith reported that several architectural buildings have both physical and spatial qualities, which should undergo evaluation, acknowledgement and enhancement. In this case, architects have taken these initiatives of upgrading old buildings. Rejuvenation of old passive climatic control characteristics in old buildings minimizes the need for reduced energy construction, mechanical aid, making maintenance easy and rendering buildings more sustainable (Caicco 44). Climatic performance of buildings is altered for several reasons including changes in utilization and surroundings. Therefore, buildings are undergoing refurbishments that commonly consist of introduction or removal of partitions, blockage of circulation and space modification. Re-use and re-adaptation of available buildings helps in exploring potentials for effective environmental conservation or even detrimental indoor climatic conditions. This is an indication that architects have realized the need for matching their architectural works with environmental ethics and requirements.
“An architect is in a unique position to revive people’s faith in their own culture. If, as an authoritative critic, he shows what is admirable in local forms, and even goes so far as to use them himself, then the people at once begin to look on their own products with pride” (Fisher 22). This is an indication that architects play prominent roles in their environments. That that was initially ignored or despised emerged to be something to make people proud. For instance, house designs from Middle East have undergone drastic restructuring using introverted plans. Since the year 1970, sustainability has been evolving as significant model of though in almost all fields of intellectual activities. The United Nations Conference concerned with environment as well as development from Rio de Janeiro came up with an idea of sustainability altogether with development to a forefront of world politics. Therefore, historic resources, regardless of cultural landscape, building, work of art or town that cannot undergo regeneration, but only retained, lost or modified, sustainability refers ensuring contribution to present by thoughtful management of changes responsive to the environment. Architectural fields perceive conservation as a dynamic process that involves public participation, consensus, better stewardship and dialogue. Looking at the built environment from the 21st century, it is evident that architects have become prominent in environmental integrity (Fisher 24). This is clear from the way buildings are designed and resources are exploited from their natural existence.
Influential pioneers played great roles in enhancing integrity to environmental ethics. One of them was Lewis Mumford who was an American architect and philosopher. He led movements in defining green designs in architectural world and made contributions to popularization of many environmental principles. For instance, Mumford proposed an environmental philosophy in 1973 that followed, “the solution of the energy crisis would seem simple: transform solar energy via plants and produce enough food power and manpower in forms that would eliminate the wastes and perversions of power demanded by our high-energy technology. In short, plant, eat, and work!” (David 35). In this case, he was after renewable source of energy and waste reduction in human activities. Moreover, McHarg laid ground regulations in green architecture in a seminal book in year 1969. He continued to envision role of people as stewards in their environments. Most importantly, he advocated for cluster development concentrating on living centers and leaving much of the natural environment to flourish on its own. In this regard, he was perceived the earth to be self-contained as well as a dangerously threatened entity. In addition, the Norwegian environmental philosopher, Naess Arne came up with theory of ecosophy that asserts that all living organisms are equally vital in their environment that should be a balanced system (Fox 48). This accelerated green awareness Therefore, United States was able to use alternative sources of energy due to green awareness. Alternative sources of energy used in the states include wind, geothermal, and solar. This is an illustration of architectural world involvement in environmental conservation.
Bulk research on environmental sustainability in architecture has focused on tow fundamental discourses that include adaptation and mitigation. In this case, mitigation refers to minimization of climatic changes while adaptation concentrates on influences of climatic changes. Adaptation strives to manage and prepare places considering changing environmental conditions. Conservation efforts have been concentrated on adaptation procedures. UNESCO among other vital institutions charged with roles of heritage stewardship continue to implement projects aimed at examining risks posed on sites by changes in temperature, ground water, precipitation, sea levels and events of climate. Outcomes of such initiatives are aimed at responsive strategies in order to conserve and manage heritage sits, landscapes and buildings in face of climatic conditions (David 41). On the other hand, mitigation holds that changes are needed in planning, design, construction and management of built environment in order to ensure increased carrying capacity on the ever-growing population. Built environment continues to contribute significantly to solutions of climate changes, reducing substantial landfill wastes, and effective management of natural resources. Current practices in built environment have aimed at reconciling sustainability for drastic innovation altogether with a conservation goal of change management as well as preserving all existing resources in the environment (O’Brien, et. al 4). There have also been increased efforts to enhance common agendas within the built environment. Therefore, built environment has not been left behind in initiatives of curbing climate changes and environmental conservation.
Built environment has also taken caution in places that they build and ways used to build in attempts to enhance environmental ethics. Changing how and where buildings are made in communities has helped to mitigate impacts of architecture on environment hence improving developments alongside conserving the environment and health. Where buildings are located includes safeguarding all sensitive areas including wetlands, riparian buffers and critical habitats from any development pressures. This directs new developments to infill, greyfield and Brownfield sites in attempts to take benefit from existing infrastructure along with green space preservation (Fox 55). This also helps in putting up homes, accessible locations and workplaces. On the other hand, considering how building is done involves developing compactly in order to conserve all open spaces and quality of water, designing communities as well as streets in order to encourage walking and biking, missing utilization to decrease travel distances and improvement of building designs, material selection and construction using natural resources in more efficient ways. This is also followed by improvement of buildings’ environmental performance (David 45). The two elements are correlated and work effectively whenever they are combined together. Architects have been using them and this has caused much impact on ecosystems, habitats and watersheds. They have also reduced energy use and vehicle travel that in return tends to reduce emissions that might lead to regional, global or local air quality concerns. Architects have increased an understanding that nations can indeed continue thriving in developments through building strong foundations while protecting their environment and health.
Smart growth strategies adopted by architects in building and construction create sustainable communities by placing their built developments in effective and convenient locations as well as designing them to look more efficient altogether with environmental responsibility. Most communities across nations use creative strategies towards development in ways that seem to preserve their natural lands and more critical environmental places, protect air and water quality and reuse the already developed land. Built environment conserves environmental resources by reinventing in various existing infrastructure and retaining historic buildings. Through designing neighborhoods consisting of offices, churches, shops, parks and schools among other social amenities, architectural community is offering residents and visitors options of walking, taking public means, bicycling and driving whenever they perform their routines (Caicco 73). Through smart growth procedures enhancing neighborhoods and involving local residents towards development decisions, communities are becoming vibrant in terms of their workplaces, living areas and playgrounds. High quality of life created by architects makes communities economically competitive, renders creation of business opportunities and improvement of local tax base. It is a requirement in the environmental ethics that effective impact be created in an environment (76). Built environment has ensured positive impacts on communities in which they operate.
In conclusions, architects have played huge roles in enhancing environmental ethics. Environmental ethics provide ethical design system to architecture. Architecture and environment have a strong relationship, hence the need for architecture to be involved in environmental conservation. Architects have indicated amicable efforts directed towards environmental conservation in various ways including the way they construct buildings to places they locate buildings. Architects have been constantly involved in improvement of quality of life by environmental conservation that has become a crucial path for survival. It is good that built environment professionals have realized the need for environmental conservation after noticing that they require the global environment for their day-to-day activities. Architects have adopted three principles of operation to enhance environmental sustainability. These principles include economic of resources principle, life-cycle design principle and human design principle. These principles have assisted in incorporating architectural activities with environmental conservation agendas. Moreover, nations have adopted standards in their building environments that have enabled architects to remain within their codes of conducts, all aimed at environmental conservation. Energy sustainability as well as efficiency in constructions has also been adopted. In reality, architecture, building and construction continue to play roles in conservation of environment that fulfills requirements of environmental ethics.
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