“I note that the 1/05/07 issue of AIArchitect declares that ‘Sustainability Tops Federal Issues Agenda for 2007,’” writes Michael S. Adams, AIA, in an e-mail letter to the editor. “May I suggest that since the AIA is unable to define exactly what ‘sustainability’ means, that this term be (1) replaced by a description of what is really intended ... or, perhaps better, (2) dropped entirely?”
Since it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to stop using the term just because it has become something of a buzzword, let's instead turn to some reasonably definitive sources.
William McDonough, FAIA—whose Hanover Principles, written with Michael Braungart, started the ball rolling on a (lengthy) description of what sustainable design might mean—offered a more terse version at the 2006 AIA National Convention. His firm, he said, strives to create a “delightfully diverse, healthy, and just world, with clean air, water, soil, and power—economically, equitably, ecologically, and elegantly enjoyed.”
To get something closer to an "AIA definition," we turn to Joseph Demkin, AIA, who is currently bringing together the 14th edition of The Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice and offers two definitions being considered for that book’s glossary.
Sustainability: the concept of meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Sustainable design: design that seeks to avoid depletion of energy, water, and raw material resources; prevent environmental degradation caused by facility and infrastructure development over their life cycle; and create environments that are livable, comfortable, and safe and that promote productivity.
What do you think?