ABSTRACT

The profession of architecture has defined “the dimensions of sustainability” from a variety of perspectives. In the 1970s, solar cabins in the woods were associated with the counter-culture and alternative lifestyles. In the ‘90s, parallel but uncoordinated efforts at sustainability have developed between approaches more aligned with urban design or with engineering. In the former, dimensionality is associated with the kind of broadening of perspective brought on by a systemic environmental approach. Architecture's sustainability is judged in relation to its role in urban and regional systems. The latter approach works at the scale of the individual building and its precisely detailed components designed to minimize energy use or maximize energy production. In this case, the dimensions of interest are the quantifiable measures of the building's selfsufficiency. Ideal performance is represented by the “standalone” building. Able to produce its own power and recycle its own waste, the stand-alone building seemingly does not contribute to environmental degradation. However, the engineered ideal of a self-sufficient building is too often at odds with the urban design ideal of a self-sufficient town or region. As a step towards allowing these two approaches to better complement each other and without demeaning the stand-alone building's obvious benefits, I want to point out its limitations from a social and urban design perspective.