Viewpoint (January 01, 2002)

Early in December, the Canadian Green Building Team met in Toronto to select three projects to undergo a detailed energy analysis and represent Canada in the Green Building Challenge at the Sustainable Building 2002 conference in Oslo, Norway next October (see page 9). During the two-day session, team members expressed concern that the post-September 11 emphasis on building security would divert attention and resources away from sustainable design, threatening the momentum it had enjoyed in recent years.

If this comes to pass, it will be the result of compartmentalized and short-sighted thinking. Some analysts have noted that a more sustainable approach to resource consumption could contribute significantly to global stability. Increased competition for dwindling resources, from fossil fuels to potable water, has long been identified as one of the primary potential sources of conflict in the 21st century. And some observers have argued that the industrialized West’s unquenchable thirst for cheap oil has resulted in its support of repressive regimes that can guarantee its delivery, even if at the expense of their own populations.

This larger perspective prompts us to view such apparently disparate issues as building security and energy efficiency through the more inclusive lens of sustainability, and serves as an important reminder of the interconnectedness of what on the surface may seem quite separate concerns. Additional security measures in our buildings will no doubt reassure an anxious population, and may prove to be indispensable in a crisis, but they don’t address the issues underlying the geopolitical instability that can contribute to such crises. While we can hardly look to sustainable design to provide the answer to all the world’s problems, reduced pressure on resources could alleviate a major area of potential conflict.

In this issue, Ted Kesik articulates a similarly complex and integrated view of sustainable design in his article “Perspectives on Sustainability” (see page 28). Kesik, a professor of building science at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto, sets the stage for a series of articles scheduled to appear in Canadian Architect over the coming year that will address a variety of building science issues. And, as part of a new initiative for Canadian Architect, the pieces published in the magazine will be abridged versions of longer articles available on our Web site,, under the link labelled Architectural Science Forum. Thanks to Professor Kesik and his research assistants, Angela Iarocci and David Ross–both third year students in the Master of Architecture program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design–for contributing to the development and support of the Web-based articles.

Free from the space limitations of the printed page, the articles on the Web site will expand on the principles described in the magazine and provide a much greater degree of technical detail. In addition, the Architectural Science Forum is intended to provide a vehicle not just for this series of articles, but for the exchange of knowledge and information from a variety of sources. The intent is to establish a lively, inclusive forum that can accommodate a variety of subject matter, views, and opinions on the complex art of building science. We invite you to visit the Web site and contribute your response. Marco Polo