Architecture, ethics and sustainability – an exploration

  • YEAR
    Mellersh-Lucas, Susan
    de Jong, Ursula
    Fuller, Robert
    2006 Conference Papers
    Indicators of Sustainable Building


ABSTRACT: Globally we are grappling with the concept of sustainability. What does it mean and how
should we respond to ensure that the planet and its ecosystems survive? While the problem of living in
a sustainable way must be addressed by all sectors of society, architects are arguably in the ‘front line’
because of the impact of buildings in terms of resource use and waste generation. Most definitions of
sustainability are unhelpful because of their wordiness, lack of detail or ambiguity. Others distort the
concept of sustainability to allow business-as-usual (i.e. unsustainable) activity to continue. Using one
particular model of sustainability, this paper explores the apparent contradictions between architectural
practice in the residential sector, ‘sustainable’ housing and the desire to behave ethically. The paper
begins with definitions of sustainability and ethics, together with some guiding principles. The literature
examining the ethics of sustainable architecture is then reviewed. Two indicators are suggested to
make a broad-brush assessment of sustainability. Current practice in Australian residential architectural
design, both mainstream and ‘green’, is then critiqued against these indicators. Finally, some practical
options for a practising architect faced with a client, who wants an ‘unsustainable’ house, are briefly


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