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Tensions Between Theory and Practice in Sustainable Architectural Design

Coucill, LS (2013) Tensions Between Theory and Practice in Sustainable Architectural Design. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Architectural practice is often criticised for being contingent on a plethora of standards, regulations and commercial pressures. Such contingency is concerning given that the objectives for architectural and urban sustainable design are based on a reductive epistemology that places ‘zero-carbon’ design at the centre of what is really a hydra-headed paradigm. In the context the rising commercial interest in the accreditation of sustainable architecture through assessment methods such as BREEAM, the thesis indicates that the skills of architects and the morals embedded in the profession diffuse the focus of objectives in order to establish the best all round design outcome. The thesis explores the different ways in which designers diffuse the focus of objectives through a series of qualitative ex post facto studies of the design work of novice designers and new professionals, and a series of semi- structured interviews with established practitioners. The findings reassert recurring discourses in the architectural profession about the commensurability of pedagogy and practice and the value of architecture. The conclusions indicate that at the root of these issues, is a fracture between the production of assessment method criteria and the implementation of it. Consequently, the thesis suggests that practice-based research has the potential to reconcile this fracture, by feeding knowledge directly to the source of contingency.

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