Fuller, R. J. and Taylor, P. 2010, Better definitions, better buildings?, in AUBEA 2010 : Construction Management(s) : Proceedings of the 35th Australasian Universities Building Education Association annual conference, AUBEA, Melbourne, Vic., pp. A011 – 1-A011 – 11.
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Because of the magnitude of their impact on the environment, the way we design, build and operate our buildings must change. So-called ‘sustainable’ buildings are now appearing in our cities. However, the term ‘sustainable’ is now so widely used that it has lost all meaning. Other equally ill-defined descriptions are also being used of the new generation of buildings appearing in the built environment. These terms, including ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘low energy’ and ‘green’. This paper argues that a lack of clarity over meaning can foster illusions, reflect careless thinking and/or provide cover for a business-as-usual agenda. In universities, courses for today’s architecture and construction management students are being redesigned to include ‘sustainability’. However, a review of subject guides from Schools of Architecture in Australian universities indicates that ‘sustainability’ is also being used misleadingly. While there is merit in both of the professional accreditation systems for buildings in Australia, there is certainly room for improvement. One scheme reinforces illusions by rewarding features that should merely be regarded as good building design. The ‘sustainability’ objectives of the other scheme have narrowed significantly from the original intent. The authors conclude that the critical thinking of our students will be sharpened by defining sustainability correctly and that meaningless descriptors of buildings must be challenged.
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