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      TOWARDS A FOURTH ECOLOGY: Social and Environmental Sustainability with Architecture and Urban Design


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          Third Ecology—“What is not yet clearly demonstrated and understood is that the human species, through its ability to alter bits and pieces of the laws which govern the natural environment and its ecology, has in fact created a completely new environment—a man-made one which in complexity and scale of containment is comparable to the natural. This new environment now requires a new ecology of its own order so that it can be fully comprehended: a third ecology within which, with luck, humanity may find a new symbiosis with other living things...the third ecology environment may be described as technological in its production and control processes, but at the same time social in its continuously developing nature. It cannot therefore be uniquely explained in biological or technological terms.”

          —Serge Chermayeff and Alexander Tzonis 1971 2

          The architect has always been interested in the social and cultural dimensions while creating architecture for people to last, with the help of building science and technology. Science could solve some problems, but is yet to solve many of the problems of urbanization in human history. Perhaps many of the problems can only be solved with careful understanding of human behavior, social intercourse, and economics in relation to the urban environments and organizations, and the natural environment simultaneously.

          There seemed to be a divide between the way an engineer and an architect think and practice in making a building and a piece of architecture, where the former is highly mathematical, and the latter deals with cultural poetics and a whole range of social and technical issues of which the physics of the environment is but one dimension ( Bay and Ong 2006). It may appear natural in this age of environmental crisis and rapid urban development in many cities that the current Ecologically Sustainable Design (ESD) system, which is mainly based on science of the physical world, would be readily accepted by the architect in practice and education.

          Many of the current ESD guidelines can contribute to the avoidance of a further decay of the earth, thus preventing droughts and floods, etc., and hope to maintain the status quo of the environment for all the “ business as usual” social-economic activities. With more world leaders of the developed world agreeing in principle on the need to address climate change, perhaps a lot more will be done based on the engineering models for ecologically friendly planning, commerce, industry, and design. There could be a cognitive bias 3 of overconfidence and systemic error that the predominantly engineering focus to keep climate change at bay will solve the problem of sustainability in various parts of the world. The current limited concept of “ecological” or the “green” design does contribute to sustainability, but is quite limited and not the whole picture of sustainability.

          The concept of sustainability involves the dynamic and complex balance of environmental (man-made and natural), economic and social dimensions, from many earlier sources including the theory of the Third Ecology ( Chermayeff and Tzonis 1971) about social ecology directly related to the man-made urban fabric, and recently, the much accepted pervasive framework of the Brundtland Commission Report 1987: Our Common Future , which included more discussions about the interrelatedness with economic equity and the natural environment. Foremost and ultimately it is about promoting and ensuring social quality of living now and sustaining that into the future, for all nations, the rich and the poor, through solving the matrix of social, economic, and environmental problems.

          From the perspective of the theory and practice of architecture, this paper discusses the following issues:

          1. Belief in science, disenchantment, symbol of failure of modern architecture – Pruitt Igoe;

          2. An anti-thesis to Pruitt Igoe – Bedok Court;

          3. The cultural concerns and preparametric design thinking process of the architect;

          4. Architecture, social science, cultural value, social capital, behavior, and ESD;

          5. A Fourth Ecology, multi-disciplinary research by architects, social scientists, and engineers.

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          The Death and Life of Great American Cities

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            Within the global green building family, if one likens the US and the Australian Green Building Councils to siblings, Green Star and LEED can be viewed as cousins. While sharing much of the same conceptual “genome,” they are appropriately different because they have “grown up” in different “families” and reflect unique sets of aspirations, influences, and constraints. Established in 2002, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) is a dynamic not-for-profit organisation that is uniquely supported by all sectors of the industry (including Australia’s largest and most influential building owners, developers, and contractors), as well as all levels of government, academia, and non-government (NGO) organisations. The GBCA was created with a mission to transition the property industry towards sustainability and drive the uptake of green building practices across Australia. The GBCA achieves this, and grows a strong green platform to support both the local and international green building movement, through its environmental rating system for buildings, Green Star, as well as through its educational and knowledge-transfer activities, advocacy work, and research. Green Star is a voluntary tool aimed at the top 25% of the market, with the aim of influencing the rest of the market to incorporate green into standard practice. Like LEED, Green Star recognises and rewards leadership and sets a common definition of green for Australia across a level playing field and a comprehensive set of environmental criteria. In doing so, Green Star marries a strong scientific basis with a simplicity that everyone can understand and use. As a result, the property industry receives a robust benchmark against which to reduce the environmental impact of buildings and to achieve real cost savings, as well as to improve occupant health and productivity. As a national rating tool, Green Star enables buildings to be comparable Australia-wide and provides consistency in green building standards. Also, due to the similarities between Green Star and other international rating systems, international comparisons can be drawn. Like any mature product of a complex environmental, political and socioeconomic context, the market leverage, technical rigor, integrity, and long-term viability of Green Star are rapidly attracting the attention of the international green building community. This article explores Green Star as a successful context-bred market solution for industry transformation, and draws comparisons with its international counterpart, LEED.
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              In the essay entitled ‘Towards a Sustainable City Centre’ (published in JGB Summer 2006), the author reflected on principles how to best integrate ecologically sustainable development (ESD) into urban design. This second paper reports on his continuing research in the area of ‘Green Urbanism’. 1 Among the most significant environmental challenges of our time are global climate change, excessive fossil fuel dependency and the growing demand for energy—all likely to be major challenges of the 21st century and one of the greatest problems facing humanity. In this context, urban design and the fundamental principles of how to shape our cities has barely featured in the greenhouse debate. Much of the debate in related areas has so far circled around ideas about active technology for ‘eco-buildings’. This is surprising, since almost half the energy consumed is used in cities and urban built-up areas, and given that avoiding mistakes in urban design at early stages could genuinely lead to more sustainable cities and less greenhouse gas emission. This article reflects upon practical strategies focused on increasing sustainability beyond and within the scope of individual buildings. The paper deals with cross-cutting issues in architecture and urban design and addresses the question of how we can best cohesively integrate all aspects of energy systems, transport systems, waste and water management, passive and active strategies, climatisation and so on, into contemporary urban design and improved environmental performance of our cities. It provides a context for a general debate about the regeneration of the city centre, and discusses how urbanism is affected (and can be expected to be even more affected in future) by the paradigms of ecology. The significance of the research is found in the pressing need for an integration of sustainability principles in the urban design process of cities in South East Asia and the general need for a sustainable city development. It will be of particular relevance to the rapid urban growth of developing cities that have, in the past, frequently been poorly managed. Research in sustainable urban design recommends increased harnessing of the energies manifested in the existing fabrics—for instance, through the adaptive re-use of former industrial (brownfield) sites and the upgrade and extension of existing building structures. It is less environmentally damaging to stimulate growth within the established city centre rather than sprawling into new, formerly un-built areas. Two recent examples for the application of such urban design principles are the author’s proposals for the Australian city of Newcastle: the ‘City Campus’ and ‘Port City’ projects.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Green Building
                College Publishing
                Fall 2010
                : 5
                : 4
                : 176-197
                Author notes

                1Joo Hwa Bay, Ph.D. Associate Professor, University of Western Australia; Director, Eco Design Consultant; Philip.Bay@ 123456uwa.edu.au ; philipjhbay@ 123456yahoo.com .

                ©2010 by College Publishing. All rights reserved.

                Volumes 1-7 of JOGB are open access and do not require permission for use, though proper citation should be given. To view the licenses, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/

                Page count
                Pages: 22

                Urban design & Planning,Civil engineering,Environmental management, Policy & Planning,Architecture,Environmental engineering
                community,human potential,rating tools,social and environmental,sustainability,human behavior,Ecology,architecture,bioclimatic,Modern Architecture,socio-climatic,diversity,functionalism,social capital,ecologically sustainable design


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