101 Rules of Thumb
This small pocket book, its simple structure and its clear drawings are a good reminder for sustainable design. It aims to bring the bigger picture to the foreground on ‘how to design low energy use buildings’. It could be argued that many of these ‘rules’ sum up the principles of nature and behaviour of materials, but most relate to design itself. Nothing in this book is new knowledge but a convenient way of putting knowledge and know-how together into a compendium of use when engaging in sustainable design. A main objective is to reduce waste and contribute to respecting the limits of the planet and its renewable capacity.
After a set of sustainability principles relevant to designers, the text provides practical advice on how to respect and preserve natural resources in the building process, and work in harmony with the natural world, instead of against it. It recognises that buildings are also there to serve human wellbeing and comfort and to create healthy environments for human activities. Most rules relate to new build and implicitly green field situations.
The last chapter, called ‘strategies for sustainable buildings and cities’ which collapses more complex issues into a small set of rather overloaded drawings, is less successful. It is reduced to three double pages, listing the rules on one side and showing how they may interact in the drawings. They deal with ‘sustainable retrofit’, ‘sustainable architecture’, and ‘sustainable cities’ respectively. It is arguable whether these pages are making a useful contribution or may have been better omitted.
A lot is known and has been written about ecological urban design. As soon as buildings are put together they create issues of microclimates not just inside the buildings but also between them, notwithstanding the wider repercussions on other parts of the city, at different times of the year and of the day, and in different climatic conditions. Sustainable design to improve microclimates is confronted with a very complex set of issues it may be possible to optimise individually, but which in combination can have contradictory effects on each other. This implies many trade-offs studied by scholars of eco-cities, as well as building regulators whose aims are to foster more sustainable design. The ‘notes, observations and references – a narrative bibliography’ at the end of the book are very useful, For each chapter, they complement the rules and drawings with evidence and empirical studies. A list of references of printed and web resources, together with an index complete this part of the book, unfortunately in very small print but of definite worth.