chapter  5
22 Pages

The human factor in sustainable architecture

WithArdeshir Mahdavi

Buildings and their associated infrastructures constitute a major class of interventions by people in the environment resulting in resource depletion, environmental emissions, and waste generation. To date, such building-related interventions, together with others involving industry and transportation, have comprised the planet’s capacity to support the sustenance of future generations. This circumstance has motivated numerous pleas emphasizing the importance of sustainability in architecture. However, as in many other environmentally relevant domains, the theory (how we think the built environment should be) and practice (how the built environment actually evolves) have not converged. Hence, if we are to take the notion of sustainable architecture seriously, we need to approach it critically in the context of the complex and consequential relationships involving people, buildings, and environment. Why do people construct buildings? How can we measure their effectiveness in meeting people’s requirements? How can we assess their ecological implications in the context of other human-triggered interventions in the environment? The primary objective of this chapter is to provide a broad and critical framework to address

these and other cognate questions.Toward this end, the chapter is structured as follows. Section 5.2 entails a brief introduction to “Human Ecology” as a fruitful conceptual framework for the discussion of interrelationships between people and their surrounding environment, which is – more often than not – a built environment. Section 5.3 is dedicated to a number of essential background or boundary conditions necessary for a meaningful discussion of sustainability in the building sector. These include, amongst other topics, the central importance of population growth aswell as social factors related to standard of living and “life style”. Such factors are relevant to the services expected from buildings and the resulting demand for resources. Section 5.4 addresses the indoor environmental conditions necessary to meet the requirements of building users. Thereby, we shall focus on thermal comfort conditions in buildings. In Section 5.5, we deal with people’s passive and active influences on buildings’ indoor climate and environmental performance. Section 5.6 summarizes the chapter’s conclusions.