Interviewed by Ahmad Zohadi

Jourdan Younis – Hilson Moran

Sustainable Associate – UAE – BSCM (Hons), CMAA, LEED AP


Ahmad Zohadi:

How would you define in your own words ‘sustainability’?

Increasing the productivity of natural capital to a point that buildings are regenerative, shifting to biologically inspired materials and embracing a service rather than product approach to the way that we live, are concepts that embody sustainability.

Should sustainability be controlled by government / global legislation or should it rely solely on architects’ ethics and why?
Fundamental and incrementally increasing standards for sustainability should be established. Although sustainability can theoretically be implemented voluntarily, operational realities tend to paint a different picture. For whatever reasons, most people do not ‘actively’ recycle, turn off their lights as they leave the office or automatically specify efficient fixtures when they engineer a building.
Having legislative standards in place and then using creative teams to design buildings to operate in ways that create further sustainability behind the scenes would ensure that the occupants do not need to actively think about being sustainable, but rather they and the planet will effortlessly reap the rewards of this silent sustainability.

Can sustainability be compatible with experimental / progressive / innovative design and why?

Definitely! Architecture is not just about funky experimental design; a good architect also tries to stay up to date with technical innovations and the demands of the market. Just think about PV panels 30 years ago and what look at what is available now. Of course, it also helps if once in a while an architect comes up w/ something crazy that includes cutting edge technology (sustainable features) which makes the headlines.
Unfortunately it is also this “eco-bling” that tends to influence the perception that sustainable design is expensive. This is not always the case, and if implemented thoughtfully and early enough in a project, will end up saving the client money not just in operations costs but also in up-front capital costs. For instance, if a building is modelled early, let’s say during concept stage, and the model shows that the building is expected to receive enough natural daylight during normal operating hours, it may be possible to reduce the quantity and intensity of the perimeter light fixtures – saving the developer money now and then also saving the occupants money in the future.
Sustainability and modelling are tools in the architect’s tool belt to be used to better understand the demands and priorities of the end users and then how best to sculpt the building so that these needs are met. Sustainability is not a pair of handcuffs.

Will you decline a commission if your clients declare that they are not interested and they will not pay any additional cost to your sustainable design and why?

My straight answer at the moment would be ‘No’, and this is for a couple of reasons.
1. Sustainability does not need to cost more than conventional design if it is well thought out and planned for at the beginning of the project.
2. Existing standards and regulation: Many states and countries have requirements that are already being implemented which ensure a certain sustainable baseline for building design standards; Title 24 in California (My home state prior to my move to the UAE), Waermeschutzverordnung in Germany, and soon the various sustainability regulations of the UAE.
It is important in life to stay true to yourself and this might apply even more so for architects. Therefore, architects may ‘push the envelope’ without the client even knowing it, thereby delivering a better product. Our practice sees sustainable design, with the health and wellbeing of the future building participants as our focus, and we use sustainability as a tool to deliver buildings that perform well.

It is astonishing that in the last five years or so, almost everybody claims to be ‘sustainable’. Do you think that the world is really now so much more sustainable and why?

No, I don’t think so. Granted that, if you are within the industry (architecture / design) this seems to be the new buzz-word and ‘Green is the new Back’. But you will be surprised, how many people have not heard of it at all and if they have, they don’t know what it means. Do the test, go to the next big supermarket and see, how many people actually bring their own bag…

Describe your ideal sustainable design.
A design that is not just restorative for the environment, perhaps using less energy than it generates, treating water on-site and not using materials that have only one useful life, but a design that also restores the vitality of the human spirit.
Rogner Bad Blumau – Austria by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The concept behind the resort is “life in harmony with nature“. Have a look online, and better yet have a visit with your significant other. Trust me; you will feel what I mean when you visit.

© Published by 2A Magazine, Issue 11