Steve King, consultant at Linarch, will be one of our judges for this year’s Sustainability Awards. King brings to the expert jury panel an extensive background in architectural science and architectural practice. As a former lecturer at both the University of New South Wales and the University of Canberra, King taught on the subjects of thermal comfort, daylighting, and the wind and ventilation components of environmental control. As a vocational teacher, King has an international reputation for the integration of technical performance issues in design studios.
Until its disestablishment in 2006, King was also associate director of the Centre for a Sustainable Built Environment (SOLARCH) at the University of New South Wales.
In the lead-up to the 2017 Sustainability Awards, Harris spoke to A&D about the increasing attention on sustainable retrofits, the importance of photovoltaics, and the holistic incorporation of sustainability into projects.
What are you looking for as a judge?
I have been preoccupied for many years with evidence, rather than rhetoric. So I guess I am hoping that entrants to the awards will make the effort to include examples of various forms of modelling and testing, rather than just assertions of how they expect (or hope) their buildings or products will behave.
How much do you think sustainable design has changed over the past couple of years?
There have been many advances in materials and products. But what I enjoy most is that there has been increasing attention [paid] to the sustainable retrofit of existing buildings. Let's face it – that is the best way to minimise the waste stream and maximise the value of the embodied energy. Not unimportantly, it's very likely to positively influence social sustainability as well.
What do you think is the most pressing sustainability issue for the industry at the moment?
We are still at the point where genuine commitment to sustainability is a minority concern. There is a bit of an illusion that sustainability has gone mainstream, but really, much of it is pretty superficial and largely a product of credentialing used as a marketing tool in a competitive real estate market. To my mind, it is devaluing a genuine concern with sustainability
What is a new technology or approach that you hope gains wider use?
I have no doubt that affordable, efficient solar photovoltaics, produced with a much lower impact on the environment, is the single most effective enabling technology. Electricity is a wonderful way of making high-grade energy available for all kinds of sustainability initiatives, so being able to produce it without destroying the environment is a very high priority.
Do you think sustainability is still an add-on or is it incorporated holistically?
I have no problem with bolt-ons. If you can bolt it on easily, you can also disassemble it and reuse it easily. But I think you mean whether sustainability is central to the design process for buildings and the wider environment. At the moment, the people who think realistically about it [are] very much in the minority.
Where do you see sustainable design heading in the next few years?
It will take a little while [longer], but the message will get through that greed is the main source of waste and other damage to the environment, and that environmental damage is adversely affecting everyone. With a bit of luck, that will lead to an acceptance of simpler expectations and less of the sense of entitlement we still have at the moment. A good example would be a return to much smaller dwellings.
There will definitely be remarkable materials and technologies that will disrupt some of the least sustainable things we have been doing for 100 years.