Prof Geoffrey Broadbent, former Head of the Portsmouth School of Architecture, visited Ashurst Lodge and presented a lecture on ‘The Greening of Architecture’. He is former Head of the Portsmouth School of Architecture; sole author of three books and joint author/editor of four more, producer of some 150 papers in the Design Process, Meaning in Architecture, Urban Space Design, Deconstruction and other architectural movements. The results have been invitations to lecture throughout the UK, Eastern, Western, Southern and Northern Europe; also lecture tours in the USA and Canada (20), Central (3) and South America (17), Africa (2), the Middle East (3), South-East Asia including Hong Kong (5) and China (3), not to mention Australasia. He has been involved in many professional committees, accreditation boards; advisor/consultant to schools of architecture worldwide; external examiner for taught courses on some 100 occasions and for higher degrees on 40.
He started with the historical observation that in its beginnings, architecture was entirely "green;" built with local materials, requiring nothing in the way of factory fabrication. Techniques were - and still are - understood world-wide, in indigenous and vernacular architecture, as to how best to control the climate; hot and dry, hot and humid, cold and dry, etc using materials "as found." So why, by the early 1950's, had architecture become so "ungreen;" so entirely artificial, using materials with high amounts of energy embodied in their production and, further, requiring vast amounts of energy for heating, cooling etc to make them, approximately, habitable?
A series of inventions from the Industrial Revolution onwards: metal-frame buildings, the elevator, the dynamo, electric motors and lighting, plate-glass etc enabled architects to isolate the users of their buildings from nature. These, together with the architects' fascination for abstract art, culminated in the steel-and-glass office towers of the 1950s. It need not have been like that. "Form giving" architects such as Le Corbusier tried very hard to design with climate but that aspect of their work was largely ignored. They got the blame instead for all the mindless high-rise flats!
Since Rachel Carson's Silent Spring of 1962, however, there have been growing desires to fight back for Nature against technology, represented by the various "ecological" movements. The oil crisis of 1973 led to a re-evaluation of the energy-guzzling steel-and-glass tower; there was recognition also of the "sick building syndrome" and "building related illnesses" which such buildings can induce. Then there were climatic changes, such as the hole in the ozone layer (discovered in 1975) and global warming caused by CFCs (1987) and, of course, CO2, resulting largely from the consumption of fossil fuels in artificially climate-controlled of buildings and by the automobile. Most countries - except for the USA - agreed with this diagnosis and, in 1997, signed the Kyoto Protocol.
Whatever the ethics of all this, several architects have accepted the CO2 challenge and designed for a minimum of energy consumption. Some of the results were ugly -intentionally so - to demonstrate that their architects were "more responsible" than the others. But, over the past ten years or so imaginative architects, designing for minimum energy consumption in very different climates, have demonstrated that doing so can lead to extraordinary, efficient and appealing results.