Sustainability of a building or an urban development cannot be evaluated without regarding its social and economic values. A building that fails to deliver socially successful environment or does not meet the financial expectations set by the prevailing marketplace, fails to meet its environmental targets, no matter how green the actual building is in terms of construction and performance.
An architect’s role is very limited for some of the factors defining the market reaction and the social impact such as the location of the site, prevailing city policies, and general attitude of the public. For others however, architecture can make significant contribution, if the goals are shared also by all other parties involved: the developer, the other design disciplines, the contractor, city officers, tenants etc.
Efficient usage of a building or urban development creates the basis for an economically sustainable project. In addition to thoughtful allocation of activities and related spaces, the usage levels can be enhanced by allowing for extended, combined and shared uses. In order to enable efficient usage and performance also in the future, easy maintenance and flexibility for change during the whole building life cycle are elementary.
In working environment the costs generated by the users of a building cover typically 90% of all the life cycle costs related to the purpose the building was built for. Hence wellbeing of the users has significant economic impact. Designing for optimised amount of indirect natural light, fresh indoor air, right temperature and humidity levels, pleasant acoustic conditions and the right variety of inspiring working spaces and views are directly related to individual performance levels, number of sick leaves and social wellbeing at any workplace.
The remaining 10% of the costs are related to the building construction and performance. The cost of construction can be reduced by reusing the existing structures, using recycled materials, designing for future dismantling rather than demolition, and by using materials and techniques that allow for relatively short construction time. Operational costs can be reduced by taking advantage of passive means of environmental control and by designing for energy efficient construction and building technology solutions. Advanced building information modelling allows for early cost estimates for the building life cycle, as well as better collaboration and cost control during design, construction, operation and dismantling phases.