In this is­sue of El­e­ment we pro­file three projects – houses in Grey Lynn and on Wai­heke Is­land, and a quirky sum­mer shel­ter on Great Bar­rier Is­land. They are all win­ners in this year’s Auck­land Ar­chi­tec­ture Awards – and they all have some­thing to say abou

Element - - Architects - Richard Naish, of RTA Stu­dio. By John Walsh

Sus­tain­able de­sign is one of the mantras of our time. Doubt­ing its im­por­tance is about as in­tel­lec­tu­ally re­spectable as be­liev­ing that the earth is flat or that it is or­bited by the sun. But there’s a sus­pi­cion that, some­times, those mak­ing sus­tain­able claims protest too much. Why are they mak­ing such a big deal about it? Surely, as we head fur­ther into the sec­ond decade of the twenty-first cen­tury, sus­tain­abil­ity should be as un­ex­cep­tional a qual­ity of build­ings as the classical tri­umvi­rate of “firm­ness, com­mod­ity and de­light”?

Well, not yet, it seems.

It’s fair to say that not all ar­chi­tects agree that sus­tain­abil­ity should be a cri­te­rion for com­men­da­tion – again, shouldn’t it be nor­mal? – but most ac­cept that a bit of pos­i­tive dis­crim­i­na­tion serves an evan­ge­lis­tic pur­pose. Sus­tain­able de­sign is still a cause that needs its cham­pi­ons.

Given that some ar­chi­tects may feel am­biva­lent about pick­ing out sus­tain­abil­ity for spe­cial men­tion, how do the prin­ci­ples of sus­tain­able de­sign in­form their work? To­gether, three res­i­den­tial projects that won awards in the NZIA’S re­cently an­nounced 2011 Auck­land Ar­chi­tec­ture Awards pro­vide some in­di­ca­tion of the spec­trum of con­tem­po­rary ar­chi­tec­tural re­sponses to the ques­tion of sus­tain­able de­sign.

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