Habitability, the scale of sustainability
Document typeConference lecture
Rights accessOpen Access
This paper will explore an alternative to so-called "sustainable‟ models and strategies currently applied in the field of building, architecture and urbanism. In front of irrational resource consumption and an ever-growing waste generation or other problems, seemingly inherent to the current industrial productive model and now transferred to the production of space, the most critical and concerned sectors within these disciplines keep on applying scale-segregated sustainable solutions, i.e. working and intervening at the scale of the single built unit, or at that of the urban model. Instead, the paper will explain ongoing research related to the possibilities of generating another model based in the concept of "global habitability", that would allow the application of those and other new solutions and mechanisms at all scales in a much more holistic approach to the implementation of sustainability: working transversally and simultaneously, from the room to the city. If current strategies aim at an increase in efficiency exclusively based in the reduction of resource consumption and waste generation, the new model would propose a redefinition of the other term intervening, namely utility. The very subject of sustainability is changed here through this redefinition; no more space but activity, no more the object but the process. Utility and use within architecture can be identified with habitability, here understood as the achievement of adequate social and environmental conditions in order to satisfy the socially acknowledged basic needs of people. Two different factors would determine such idea of utility: on the one hand the conditions of "matter‟, as an expression of requirements related to space, resource flows and equipment needed to develop an activity; and on the other hand, the conditions of "orgware‟ or "privacy‟, another term that would include synergy – as the relation between the level of individuality and the level of collectivity - and management, as a combination of time, control and legislation. The main aim of the paper will be thus to present this reformulation of the idea of "habitability‟ as the only effective strategy towards an implementation of sustainability in the field of building. A systemic intervention, re-thinking the utility of architecture from the smallest spatial unit (the room) and extending its scale to that of the urban services (i.e. providers of any need that can't be fulfilled within the dwelling), allows achieving the maximum efficiency in terms of resource consumption; whereas social focus, incorporating individual, collective and organizational demands, allows the strategy to take roots in society expanding, thus, the likelihood of its success.
CitationCasals, M. [et al.]. Habitability, the scale of sustainability. A: CISBAT. "CISBAT 2009 Renewables in changing climate". Lausanne: 2009.