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Category Archives: policy

How policy shapes design…and vice versa?

I read recently that the European Commission is going to propose a new framework for sustainable building—one that includes embodied energy (last week’s topic). The EC is supposed to be releasing a policy paper for public consultation any day now on this site:

The commission wants to focus on:

how to improve the environmental sustainability of buildings – moving beyond the current policy debates on energy efficiency – to look at embodied energy in buildings, water usage, construction materials and waste.

And it got me thinking that it would be a good excercise to have students provide comments to the European Commission or any other policy body’s policy papers.

For example, as far as architects are concerned, the European Commission recently had a Green Paper out for public comment called “A 2030 framework for climate and energy policies” PDF (consultation period ran from March to 2nd July 2013).  It’s 16 pages long and talks extensively about buildings and energy use. What will this mean for architectural practice over the next 15 or so years?

Are architects, landscape architects or product designers ever going to write policy? Not that often. But should they be able to respond to policy proposals intelligently and constructively? Absolutely.

Ther have even been arguments that designers should be more involved in creating policy to bring a design perspective that makes policy more accessible—a different angle on the above assignement.

One way to find these proposals is to search for “public consultation, sustainable bulding” and related phrases. You can also check your local and national professional design associations, who are often responding to or tracking policy that relates to the professions (much of it not dealing with sustainability).

It’s more meaningful if they can make a real response during a live public consultation period, but even having them respond as “an exercise” to a recently closed consultation can be interesting as they can look at the actual comments that came in. In the US, states and cities are becoming more active in establishing policies that affect sustainable design, from construction to end-of-life product management.

I know this type of suggestion won’t fire up everyone’s imagination, but it’s something to think about—a way to start connecting our project-by-project impacts to broader societal goals. Are we getting where we need to go?


And now I’m off to “celebrate” the 4th of July here in London.



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