Sustainable architecture, technology and place : An in-depth case study exploring how architecture navigates the complex relationship between the construction of technologies and relation to place
Abstract: Today’s greatest global challenges include managing the environmental crisis and promoting sustainable development. Within architecture, the measures and approaches taken to address these challenges vary. While some promote self-sufficiency, others promote technological advances, creating tensions between technological and social solutions. This study, inspired by actor-network theory (ANT) investigates how global, technological measures of sustainability interact with specific local and social conditions. The aim is to further our understanding of the challenges of creating a built environment that responds not only to global measures of sustainable development but also to our local and social relation to place. A focus on technology is a commonplace feature of sustainable architecture and provides a window into understanding how universal sustainability principles relate to specific contexts. This thesis contributes to socio-technical studies of sustainable architecture by comparing and contrasting local conditions and the application of sustainable technologies related to energy efficiency, self-sufficiency and climate resilience. A theoretical framework was developed and applied to a case study, the ‘Climate House’, a recent sustainable building project in southern Thailand with a strong emphasis on technology. The case study methodology consists of a desk-based study of documents and semi-structured interviews combined with site visits and observations. Social constructivist theory and ANT are used to understand the selected case. The findings illustrate different and sometimes competing logics that negotiate the local and global dynamics of sustainable architecture. The case study brings to light the difficulties of implementing sustainable technologies in local contexts without relating to the particular conditions of place and people. Overall, the study finds that conventional sustainable architecture is based on technologies that are universal and placeless. Future studies could therefore explore what exactly sustainable technologies aim to sustain – development or life on earth.
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