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Eco-retrofitting - from managerialism to design

Publication Date
  • 120107 Landscape Architecture
  • 120105 Architecture Management
  • 120101 Architectural Design
  • Sustainability
  • Urban Design
  • Management Solutions
  • Eco-Retrofitting
  • Biology
  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography


As all environmental problems are caused by human systems of design, sustainability can be seen as a design problem. Given the massive energy and material flows through the built environment, sustainability simply cannot be achieved without the re-design of our urban areas. ‘Eco-retrofitting’, as used here, means modifying buildings and/or urban areas to create net positive social and environmental impacts – both on site and off site. While this has probably not been achieved anywhere as yet, myriad but untapped eco-solutions are already available which could be up-scaled to the urban level. It is now well established that eco-retrofitting buildings and cities with appropriate design technology can pay for itself through lower health costs, productivity increases and resource savings. Good design would also mean happier human and ecological communities at a much lower cost over time. In fact, good design could increase life quality and the life support services of nature while creating sustainable‘economic’growth. The impediments are largely institutional and intellectual, which can be encapsulated in the term ‘managerial’. There are, however, also systems design solutions to the managerial obstacles that seem to be stalling the transition to sustainable systems designs. Given the sustainability imperative, then, why is the adoption of better management systems so slow? The oral presentation will show examples of ways in which built environment design can create environments that not only reduce the ongoing damage of past design, but could theoretically generate net positive social and ecological outcomes over their life cycle. These illustrations show that eco-retrofitting could cost society less than doing nothing - especially given the ongoing renovations of buildings - but for managerial hurdles. The paper outlines on how traditional managerial approaches stand in the way of ‘design for ecosystem services’, and list some management solutions that have long been identified, but are not yet widely adopted. Given the pervasive nature of these impediments and their alternatives, they are presented by way of examples. A sampling of eco-retrofitting solutions are also listed to show that ecoretrofitting is a win-win-win solution that stands ready to be implemented by people having management skills and/or positions of influence.

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