Towards Sustainable Conservation and Use of Materials in Built Environments
Conference contribution, 2007
Up until today, no comprehensive efforts have been made, and principles are yet to be established for the ‘sustainable conservation’ of the built environment – in an inter- and transdisciplinary manner, including systematic integrative modelling and an appreciation of the inherent values of already existing structures and ambiences. Existing built structures and environments are still often seen as obstacles for sustainable development. It may be argued that a more preventive and integrated approach, i.e. an early estimation and a meta-level understanding of the built environment and its processes; its critical loads, inherent qualities, values, threats, life cycles, production chains, recyclability and quantities etc., would rather promote any kind of planning for a sustained future and the proper use of materials by hindering unnecessary material flows - i.e. through their unnecessary/unsympathetic production, exploitation and/or use, that would minimise their negative impact on peoples lives and the environment.
This alternative and more preventative approach - earlier the predominant way of handling urban planning, construction and development (i.e. the production and utilisation of both existing and planned for resources, e.g. by the use of high quality production technologies and crafts, processes and skills), was historically much based on the valorisation of costs of manpower, materials, traditional knowledge, techniques and low-energy modes of transportation, compared to modern circumstances. There was also a profound knowledge of economics in more general terms and a well-developed forecasting of future scenarios. Given the demands for a sustained future, it would be reasonable to assume that this knowledge and approach would have a great deal to offer also to the planning and epistemological modelling of our times.