when is sustainable design un-sustainable?

sustainable designBrockwell Park House, South London
Zac Monro Architects

I watched an episode of Grand Designs UK the other day, and it got me thinking about the notion of sustainability. The owners of this under construction house were talking about how their desire to be sustainable lead them to renovate and extend a 1950s house rather than knock it down and re-build.

Recycling and re-purposing of existing structures and materials is without doubt a key principle of sustainable design and construction.

However in this instance, the existing structure has been substantially extended outwards and upwards, at considerable financial and embodied energy expense. The existing fabric has been covered with multiple layers of new materials both inside and out, to the point where it is essentially unrecognisable. While the owners of this project may have had their hearts in the right place, their desire to build a large modernist statement has arguably undone all the good work of recycling the existing building in the first place.

The materials and architectural composition are lovely though.