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Brian W. Edwards and Emanuele Naboni (2013), Green Buildings Pay: Design, Productivity and Ecology, Third Edition, Abingdon: Routledge

Brian W. Edwards and Emanuele Naboni (2013), Green Buildings Pay: Design, Productivity and Ecology, Third Edition, Abingdon: Routledge, 296pp
ISBN: 978-0-415-68534-4 (hardback) ISBN: 978-0-415-68535-1 (paperback)

Review by Julie Gwilliam[1], Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University

Holistic sustainability is well addressed in this engaging discussion of architectural approaches to office and educational design. In the context of a growing urgency for the built environment to deliver on its long standing promise to reduce energy use and wider impacts on the environment while responding to the complexity of social cultural challenges present across the world, as well as playing its role in supporting and maintaining the global economy, this book achieves much in exploring how buildings might actually "pay" across the spectrum of sustainable performance. However, with such a breadth to consider, this publication has given itself quite a challenge to live up to: how can architects, associated building professionals, clients and users actually work together to ensure that buildings perform and deliver on architectural design, occupant productivity and ecological performance?

The book is presented in 6 sections, with sections 3 through to 5 focussing on the case studies which are the core content of the book as suggested by the preface and synopsis that are widely available. The selection of these case studies is intended to be from the perspective of architectural excellence, certainly refreshing as a strategy to engage the architectural profession to move away from its concern that sustainability considerations at best interfere and at worst may destroy the architectural design quality of our built environment. Most enlightened professionals, however, agree that sustainable buildings should not only "pay" in relation to holistic sustainability, but also deliver on occupant experience and delight with quality of place and space.

The content of these case studies is, in my opinion, disappointing, with the critique, provided from the perspective of the architect, client and user, unfortunately being very lightweight. There is little quantitative data to support the concept that these buildings might "pay". The opportunity for the excellent Illustrations to enlighten as to design strategies and their effectiveness is missed, with little annotation to enable clarity of intent. Furthermore, the quantification of performance is largely lacking and where it is provided it is rarely consistent in content across the examples. Neither are benchmarks always provided, meaning that the content is often difficult to evaluate in terms of quantitative measures of success. The case studies are, however, intriguing and do deliver on consideration of the wider holistic and especially the social factors of sustainability.

It is in the first two sections that the true value of this publication lies. Here the book delivers on exploring and beginning to establish how green buildings might attempt to "pay". The value of wider sustainability performance indicators, especially in terms of valuing of the internal environment to protect typically the most valuable asset of a company, its employees, is well made. While acknowledging the emerging and therefore incomplete evidence in this field, the case studies provide a compelling discussion of the value of life cycle costing, natural lighting, ventilation quality, social relationship building and environmental assessment, including building performance modelling and post occupancy evaluation. Indeed the case studies provided in these earlier sections are perhaps the most effective in the book, embedded and integrated into this narrative discussion, for example that of Aardman Animations and its integration of design responsiveness to working practices.

My experience of this book is therefore both positive and negative. I have been disappointed by the somewhat trivial nature of the case studies, billed as the core and driving force of the publication. However, the narrative introduction, which actually forms approaching half of the content, provides a compelling and well-integrated discussion of why, and indeed how, built environment professionals might go about designing and delivering a holistically sustainable building. Enjoy the book for its well written and certainly readable content, but don't expect a truly substantive answer to the question, "Do Green Buildings Pay?"

Review by Ricki-Lee Van Het Wout[2], Student of Architecture, Monash University

Despite its limited history, sustainability as an objective in the architecture and construction practice is already well justified on the basis of reducing energy consumption and emissions. Green Buildings Pay aims to provide a higher level of justification for green design in the commercial sector.

Green Buildings Pay puts forward a business case for green design, where the argument is one of 'Return on Investment' for all those involved. With the ultimate goal of encouraging "more sustainable patterns of development" (p. ii), the authors aim to broaden the understanding of the value of green design beyond the limitations of emission reduction. In order to do this, a triple bottom-line approach has been employed to include environmental, economical and social benefits of sustainable design.

The content of the text is well developed through the clear layout. The first half of the book is dedicated to setting the scene for green buildings in the corporate sector. Ideas are developed through the perspectives of the client and the architect, where the market value of green buildings for each is presented clearly. Where these two perspectives converge, topics can often feel repetitive to the reader, however it is either to reiterate a point, or to remind readers that for green buildings to 'pay' these roles must co-exist. In light of the emphasis on user needs and preferences in green design, it is refreshing to note that the authors also focus on the occupant's perspective, impact and role.

Collaboration and integration are key themes throughout the text and, as a result, Green Buildings Pay is relevant for a range of people and professions. This book would be valuable for architects, engineers, and material specialists but equally as valuable for clients and developers. The authors encourage a shared approach, stating: "…While the architect is fundamental to the advancement of ideas related to the design of truly sustainable buildings, the clients who commission those architects, albeit prompted by an economic imperative, are vital" (p. ix). The book is also of value to the student community, as it provides an insight into the professional practice and current state of green design and methods. The material in the book has the capacity to encourage students to work with innovative sustainability in mind, which is essential in shaping the future of sustainable development.

The concepts described in the first half of the book are well structured and are simple to grasp, even for those who are not well versed in architectural dialogue. The second half of the book comprises case studies where the concepts described in the first half of the book are practically applied. The case studies help to translate and refine complex concepts, allowing them to be better understood within the bigger picture of a design and construction process and building system.

A compelling strength of the book is its scope. This is not only in the authors' ability to consider the perspective of the client, designers and users, but in the geographical and chronological spread of the projects they have showcased. This breadth allows for patterns and themes to emerge in context, while also demonstrating the sensitivity of architectural methods or theories to change under different circumstances.

To fully appreciate this scope and deepen one's understanding of differences across cultures, regions, and time, a consistent treatment of the case study composition and analysis would have been beneficial. Some case studies are written under key headings, while others are block text. By presenting all these studies in a uniform manner using key headings, arguments would have been strengthened by increasing the opportunity for the reader to compare and evaluate evidence. As the communication of architectural concepts is supported by visual media, more reference images could have been used to help illustrate complex concepts.

The authors provide insights into the architectural practice and construction industry. Buildings are the clearest way to illustrate key points and test the application of ideas, theories and methods. More importantly case studies exemplify whether or not methods are successful, and under what conditions. The authors are clear to point out that the book is 'practice-based research,' underlining its limitations, such as lack of industry transparency and discrepancies between predicted and actual performance. The authors present their findings as concisely as they can within the constantly changing state of architecture and its relevant branch of sustainable research.

Green Buildings Pay presents a strong and coherent case for the development of green design in the commercial sector. The text expands the conversation around sustainability in the architecture practice and construction industry to include all stakeholders and decision makers. The case studies demonstrate how different innovative design responses to sustainable criteria can provide a range of environmental, social, and economic benefits for all parties involved. On the basis of these benefits, the book is successful in presenting a higher level of justification for the investment in "more sustainable patterns of development" (p. ii) in the commercial sector.


Notes

[1] Dr Julie Gwilliam is Senior Lecturer at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University.

[2] Ricki-Lee Van Het Wout is a student of Architecture at Monash University, Australia.

 

 

To cite either of these reviews please use the following details: Gwilliam, J OR Van Het Wout, R. (2014), Brian W. Edwards and Emanuele Naboni (2013), 'Green Buildings Pay: Design, Productivity and Ecology, Third Edition', Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 7, Issue 1, http://www.warwick.ac.uk/reinventionjournal/archive/volume7issue1/gwilliamvanhetwout Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite these reviews or use them in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at Reinventionjournal at warwick dot ac dot uk.