Firstly, sustainable architecture can be perceived as many things – the current fashion being “green” architecture. One could also, however, see sustainable architecture as an architecture which sustains itself financially – the ongoing development and evolution of architecture throughout history has required a financial basis – in the form of clients, or patrons. Ongoing sustainability in terms of viability of architecture requires an ongoing financial input. “Sustainability overall is about the permanence of processes” – a permanence of process also requires a permanence of available funds. Therefore, sustainability as a word itself is subjective. We can use this very negative approach as a positive goal to strive for, however. If “cool” is what will attract financial investment, why not invest in being cool? why not aim to make sustainability “cool”? vectrix-topVectrix – an electric maxi-scooter in mass production and distribution up until the Global Financial Crisis, used the slogan “Cool  People Ride Electric”. It worked – attracting many young and enthusiastic investors.         Growth, in terms of urban development, has occurred throughout human history for a number of reasons, most of which can be summarized by the word “agglomeration”. Historically, agglomeration has meant safety (kingdoms, law enforcement, etc). In recent history agglomeration has meant ease of access and better networks of communication and transport between companies, and people. To put it simply, it is cheaper to be located close to a business with which you trade on a frequent basis; it is cheaper and easier to live close to your workplace. The population of cities has been caused by “ease of access”, and the continued growth of cities is due this, and the optimized networks provided. The age we are moving into, however, could suggest a shift from this agglomeration phenomenon. There are more and more examples of “tele-working” from many major and minor companies around the world. This is due entirely to the ease of communication afforded by technology. In the age we live in it is easier, cheaper and faster to send an email than a letter – rendering the parameter of distance useless. What will this lead to? A decentralized world perhaps? We will no longer be confined to maintaining close proximity to those with which we do business. “International companies” will no longer be termed as “international”, but just as companies – as the normal. The growth of the city will be entirely dependant on lifestyle choice and social proximity. With the notion of the “sea-change” being promoted throughout most developed countries around the world, there is a high possibility that we will see a depopulation of the major cities, and in place, population booms of suburban and rural areas (this is already happening in Australia, where many professionals are moving away from Melbourne and into the country-side, to be closer to the sea, wine growing regions, etc.).     To answer the proposed questions – The first question prompts two arguments, each depending if you are talking about the individual or the mass. Economic theories tend to follow a common theme which promotes the notion that one can predict the movement, thought or actions of 1000 people, but cannot predict those of one individual. I believe that if we look at the scale of the individual, then we can indeed separate the building from the necessary infrastructure – it is just that: necessary. However, when visiting a building – for example a public building such as a museum – the individual will hold a certain expectation, and will visit, revisit, and promote the museum to their friends based on their individual experience. This can be highly influenced by the infrastructure and transport networks to and from the site, yes, but if the building itself is above and beyond expectations, then it will create in itself an incentive for increased use. However, when studying the larger scale, the building can be rendered almost useless if the infrastructure and transit networks are far below what the general mass expect or require. To pput it simply, if there is no bus/train/tram/metro station near the museum, nor a car park in the vicinity, then many people will be highly inconvenienced when attempting to reach the building, and it will only be the few who will cycle or walk (if such routes exist so as to provide access) who will not see a great disincentive. Whilst we must completely understand both scales, and the infinite levels between them, it is clear that no, one cannot separate the building from the infrastructure and mobility, unless dealing with a private dwelling with a very extravagant client.   The general consensus of developers and the buildings/site which they produce has a highly negative history, and hence the current thought of developers is very negatively weighted in terms of social welfare. In particular, due to social housing developments in many countries, where comfort, form and function have all sacrificed continuously to come in at a lower budget. The view that developers are developing sites for the top profit is a very easy conclusion for one to reach, simply because of the connotation held with developers. However, this viewpoint is rather ignorant. This is formed by a pre-set mindset, which assumes that all developers are just looking for top dollar. There are examples, if one looks hard enough, of developers seeking solely the benefit and welfare of their occupants. This can be seen in the UK from Kevin McCloud (the presenter of Grand Designs), whom began developing social welfare housing to create communities which would benefit the residents, develop friendships and improve quality of life. Sadly, cases such as this are isolated and often considered media stunts. To put it frankly, the best developers (the ones which develop the most land and continuously grow their property portfolios) are the ones whom are making the most profit, and hence can afford to undertake more projects than the developers looking to maximise end-user satisfaction.

Kevin’s Grand Design (

To push away from this norm would prove very difficult, but surely not impossible. How? incentives. Their must be incentives for developers to look at the quality of the product, as opposed the to the profitability. This is happening, however. In Australia there is a social welfare project – National Rental Affordability Scheme : where social houses built to a high enough level of quality can have significant tax benefits and government guaranteed long term rental agreements from tenants deemed to also surpass a level of quality. How do you determine which social welfare tenants should qualify for such high quality, highly subsidised rentals, is another question and perhaps one left for political debate.
NRAS Property Development (

NRAS Property Development (

The Australian Government is committed to stimulating the construction of 50,000 high quality homes and apartments, providing affordable private rental properties for Australians and their families.

In a world driven by financial incentives and the mandate for prosperity – particularly from public companies whose interests are less in the products and more in satisfying the share holders (whose own interests can be completely removed from the product altogether), the vision of development aimed at positive social welfare as opposed to profitability is an unlikely fantasy. Increases in incentives are seen as the responsibility of the public sector – the government, and not at all of the private sector. How to make this a reality?

A very unlikely possibility would be take an example from history. Ireland in the beginning of the 19th century (prior to the potato famine) was subject to a fascinating architectural phenomena. Many catholic families whom were subjected to renting low quality, isolated farms and cottages throughout rural Ireland were subject to the constant threat of being evicted from their homes, without any necessary forewarning or reasoning. Any alterations or improvements made to the dwelling would be ignored. this led to many dwellings becoming run-down, derelict, with no incentive from the tenant to improve the building (due to the constant threat of eviction), and the landlord holding no legal responsibility to make the dwellings nice, comfortable, or even safe.

However, there is a region in the south of Ireland, named Ulster, where “tenant right” dictated that tenants must be compensated for any improvements made to their farm or dwellings. This led to constant development & refurbishment, and improved quality of life and quality of architecture for the residents of such areas.

“the superior prosperity and tranquillity of Ulster, compared with the rest of Ireland, were due to tenant right.”

Woodham-Smith, Cecil (1991), The Great Hunger

What lesson can be taken from this? Should it be that tenants should improve or renovate their apartments/houses? This would surely lead to a high number of buildings being constantly updated by unskilled, on-the-budget tenants whose interests see no further than the several months of few years which they will occupy the space?

It is indeed a very difficult topic, to discuss the possibility redirecting development from profit into welfare. Is it possible, in a capitalist system, without government intervention? A greater link between the tenant/end user and the developer is entirely necessary.

To summarise: incentives are at the core to any form of change. Financial incentives are the easiest to implement, and produce the fastest results. But easy is also simply a shortcut. Finding an easy solution is not going to create long-term improvements. More difficult incentives to implement and promote would be attractivity, or even morality. The “moral card” is being played currently – without much success. Therefore we must make welfare more attractive. We must make economic welfare COOL.