Sustainability Scrutinized: Criticism Arises in Academic and Professional Discourses

© Juan Luis Martínez NahuelCourtesy of Stanislaw Mlynski

According to George Baird of Architectural Record, skepticism of sustainability is on the rise. Architectural historians, theorists, practicing architects and even construction lawyers and risk managers are warning designers about the risks associated with the “going green” ambition. Sustainability takes many forms.  From the recycling and reusing of materials to new technological innovations, “green design” can be humble: sourcing natural and passive solutions energy needs; and it can be extravagant: using customized and computer-enhanced systems that detect environmental conditions and respond accordingly to the building’s needs.

Courtesy of Stanislaw Mlynski

Chicago construction lawyer and principal of the Alberti Group, Ujjval Vyas, spoke at a joint conference with the Architectural Institute of British Columbia and the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada in Vancouver about the trend of sustainability in architecture. He mentioned the increased risk of liability claims that emerge out of architects making claims for the environmental performance of their designs beyond their own professional expertise. Fundamentally, the criticism that Baird refers to concludes with a need to address sustainable architecture more rigorously, so that the actual performance of buildings live up to the expectations of architects and clients.

© Andres Garcia Lachner
Courtesy of WE-DESIGNS.ORG, LLC and XP& Architecture

Baird calls this the end of the initial phase of sustainable architectural development. He discusses three important ways in which we need to redouble our future efforts: “first, to ensure successful fulfillment of technically based environmental ambitions for our buildings; second, to be more rigorous with regard to our predictions of performance — especially parameters of performance that are only partly within our own professional control.”

(via Architectural Record)

Cite: Vinnitskaya, Irina. "Sustainability Scrutinized: Criticism Arises in Academic and Professional Discourses" 27 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 15 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    There are three types of people in this world: those who can count, and those who can’t.

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    The headline of this article is very misleading. According to what you write, Mr. Baird is critical of architect’s claims of how sustainable their designs can be. He is not being critical of sustainability itself, as the headline implies. There is a big difference, and the two should not be confused.

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      Exactly. I almost believed this inflated headline that sustainability was broken and was about to give up on it. Good thing I read the article…

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