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RSUA Awards 'Pathfinders For The Future' of Built Environment

24 May 2010

Jim Kitchen

Speaking at the Royal Society of Ulster Architects Design Awards ceremony in the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Thursday 20th May, Head of the Sustainable Development Commission in Northern Ireland, Jim Kitchen, highlighted the importance of embedding sustainable development principles within the design and use of our buildings. Mr Kitchen also focussed on the way in which sustainable development principles can help change the way we interact with our built environment.

Mr Kitchen stated:“The Sustainable Development Commission in Northern Ireland is delighted to be associated with the RSUA Design Awards ceremony.  The ceremony is a celebration of the best in local architectural design and as such is a prestigious pathfinder for the future of our built environment.  The inclusion of a new awards category specifically focussed on sustainability is not only a positive step forward but an exciting recognition of the direction of travel of architectural design in Northern Ireland. 

“The power of architecture is that we cannot fail to be affected by it.  Whether that is because we find a particular building pleasing to look at or, perhaps, more importantly, because its design has significantly impacted on the way we use it, either as a home or as a place of work.  It is perhaps this aspect, from a sustainable development perspective, which is the most important. 

“In Northern Ireland today, most people spend over 80% of their time inside buildings.  Indeed, around a third of our year will be spent in working premises – factories, offices, colleges and shops.  Buildings, and the way we use them – are responsible for around half of our carbon emissions.  Typically a new building will generate 15% of its total carbon emissions in the construction process but the overwhelming majority will be generated by its occupants’ use of energy for heating, lighting and appliance use over its lifetime.  Using sustainable construction methods and materials is only one part of a truly sustainable building.  Architectural quality can no longer be defined by its aesthetic value – as important as that is – but by how a building or place functions, how it serves the people by whom it is used, meeting their social, economic and environmental needs, and enhancing their well-being. 

“The SDC is currently engaged with government departments in developing a new Sustainable Development Strategy for Northern Ireland, which will underpin great swathes of the government’s policies, and, increasingly, the focus will be on how to achieve a low carbon economy in the future.  Sustainable construction will need to be at the heart of this process and architects must form its vanguard.  That is why it is so encouraging to see the RSUA include a sustainability category in this year’s awards ceremony.  It is a recognition of the hard work and ground breaking designs that make a truly sustainable building not only beautiful to look at, but also actively encourages the transition towards the low carbon lifestyles we all will aspire to lead.”

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