Sustainability vital for Ireland’s architects

Ireland's architects must embrace the sustainability agenda and keep the environmental impact of their buildings at the front of their minds.

This was the central message of Environment Minister John Gormley when he spoke at the RIAI Irish Architecture Awards 2009.

He launched his speech with a quote from John Ruskin, “When we build, let us think that we build forever”, saying the phrase succinctly conveys why form, function and sustainability are central to successful architecture.

He outlined how the recently-approved government policy on architecture, Towards a Sustainable Future, aimed to provide a coherent framework for the development of the contribution of architecture.

“The new policy builds on the progress achieved to date placing a stronger emphasis on environmentally sustainable development and on urban design,” said Mr Gormley.

“It also focuses on developing our research and development capacity and complements wider Government policy here as set down, for instance, in our plan for economic recovery Building Ireland’s Smart Economy, published last December, which places a strong emphasis on stimulating innovative research and development, investing in renewable energy, promoting the green enterprise sector and creating jobs. ”

He said environmental challenges require a fundamental re-appraisal of the role of architecture and urban design, integrating their cultural and environmental responsibilities to combat the effects of climate change.

He also spoke on the importance of energy efficiency.

“In today’s economic environment, where increased productivity and tighter business margins are the order of the day, and where the world is faced with finding alternatives to finite fossil fuel resources these expectations are undergoing fundamental reappraisal,” he said.

“The built environment is responsible for 40% of all energy usage and associated carbon emissions and so clearly has a substantial role to play within the broad framework of carbon abatement strategies being advanced at EU, G8 and UN levels in response to climate change.”

He claimed that Ireland has fully committed to shouldering its share of the responsibility.

“In terms of the energy efficiency requirements for new buildings, for which I am directly responsible, it is fair to say that Ireland has now found its stride and is quickly gaining ground with the leading countries in this field.

“New dwellings will henceforth perform 40% better in energy terms relative to the former 2005 standards.

“The mandatory requirement for an onsite renewable energy technology component in new dwellings also becomes fully operational from 1 July 2009.

“Ireland was the first EU member state to make such provision in its building code while all other member states are now required to do by 2015 under the recently adopted Renewables Directive.”

Sam Bond

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