The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 19

RESILIENCE

THE FOREST AND THE TREES
by STEPHEN POPE OAA, FRAIC

rchitects and others involved in making buildings have a wealth of guidance
on how "sustainability" can be achieved with their work. The Living Building
Challenge sets the standard for on-site autonomy. LEED BD+C has been very
effective in pushing design practice and the building materials market to
evolve. Green Globes, and BOMA BEST engage the activities of building
operations and maintenance. And now the Well Building Standard offers direction
for measures enhancing the health and welfare of building occupants. All of these
systems have a particular starting point, and present a slate of activities that will
improve building performance from the perspective of their target audience. All of
them have checklists to make the instructions easier to follow.
With all this "help," it's hard to see the forest for the trees! Worse, the achievement
of a certain level of certification has become the definition of the broader condition of
sustainability. But problems are arising with this replacement definition. For a variety
of legitimate reasons, many certified buildings do not live up to the promises made
on the checklist, let alone the broader condition of "sustainability." A review of the
fundamentals is needed to understand why there are shortfalls between the promise
of a certification level and the reality of experience.
A good place to start is with expectations. How does the desired certification level
correspond to the owner's program requirements? How complete are the owner's
program requirements for that matter? Is the desire of the owner's marketing team
to have a stellar certification level consistent with the owner's commitment to maintenance funding? More pointedly, can a design level certification equal a long-term
history of performance? Is it reasonable to say that a LEED BD+C Platinum building,
or a certified 5 Green Globes building is sustainable? I suggest that it is not.
When considering time periods greater than 15 years (or any time exceeding the
design service life of any building system), one could say that sustainability is an outcome, not a product; and a series of services not a single event. While a design level
green building certification establishes the capacity of a building to serve in an effective and environmentally economical manner, the actual performance of that building
over time depends on the owner and operator. There is always celebration of a new
building certification, but in reality, a re-certification is a much more important event.
"Sustainability" implies continuity over time, and therefore the ability to absorb
change. When the service life of a facility exceeds the service lives of its components
it is reasonable to expect the components to be changed while the use of the facility
continues unchanged. Each successive generation of equipment in turn influences
the "sustainability" of the operation.
Eventually, the building use itself may change, requiring the general form of the building to be flexible enough, or attractive enough, to accommodate new uses. Stewart
Brand addresses this concept in his book How Buildings Learn by using two categories:
"low road" buildings that are easily cut up and modified to suit new needs, and "high
road" buildings that have sufficient character that new uses accommodate themselves
to the existing condition. From this perspective, "sustainability" can be described as
the product of accumulated good decisions with regard to design of spaces, material
and equipment purchasing, operations, and maintenance.
The definition can be further described as the result of periodic good design and
construction practices, plus continuous good operational practices. The good design
and construction practices lead to low operational and embodied energy consumption

But for all
of the skill
manifested
by the
architect
and the
constructor,
the keys to
sustainability
lie with the
owner.

The Right Angle | Winter 2017/2018 | 19



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017

Message from the Board
Why aren’t All Buildings Beautiful?
Resilience: The Forest and the Trees
Index to Advertisers
Locations: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Intro
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover1
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover2
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 3
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 4
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 5
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 6
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Message from the Board
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Why aren’t All Buildings Beautiful?
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 9
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 10
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 11
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 12
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 13
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 14
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 15
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 16
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 17
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 18
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Resilience: The Forest and the Trees
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Index to Advertisers
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - Locations: City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - 22
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover3
The Right Angle Journal - Winter 2017 - cover4
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