In an early March cover story, Time outlined “10 Ideas for the Next 10 Years: A thinker’s guide to the most important trends of the new decade.” This got me wondering about the next decade in green building—a thinking architect’s guide to the most important ideas.
The first decade of the new millennium was a watershed period for sustainable design. Since LEED was introduced in 2000, the U.S. Green Building Council arguably has exceeded its original goal to mainstream green. Now that sustainability, at least in some baseline form, is standard practice for the building industry, what’s next? Instead of predicting what will happen, I’ll focus on what could—or should—happen. How would I like to see green grow?
1. Technology: Buckminster Fuller’s concept of “ephemeralization”—that technology gets smaller as it gets more sophisticated—could go extreme, and energy systems could appear to disappear. Green buildings would no longer wear technology on their sleeves.
2. Construction: More automated processes, such as robotic construction, could become more common in conjunction with a growing demand for better building craft, leading to smarter, faster, tighter, richer architecture.
3. Manufacturing: The building materials industry could concentrate less on individual parts and pieces and more on whole assemblies and components. On the other hand, factories could begin to disappear as on-site manufacturing becomes more common.
4. Economics: Smarter building products and systems could become both cheaper and more effective, finally killing the misperception that sustainable design has to cost more.
5.Metrics: Subtler tools for evaluating building performance could find clearer links between quantitative factors (energy, water, etc.) and elusive quality-of-life indicators.
6.Practice: Architects could expand their scope of services to guide clients well before predesign and well after occupancy. As a result, the profession could become more financially stable and more essential to business.
7. Operation: Smart monitoring of buildings and the global sharing of performance statistics could become standard practice, creating unprecedented feedback loops and richer networks of information.
8.Education: Ecological literacy could reform education at every level and transform design schools around more aggressively interdisciplinary curricula.
9.History: The scholarly history of architecture could focus less on monuments of wealth and power (temples, churches, museums) and more on the interaction of people and place over time.
10. Culture: The glamorization of the individual architect could become less and less appealing as design becomes valued more for how it serves communities. Death to starchitecture.