Aim for 'sustainable' architecture, ie not subtracting more from the environment than is contributed and not dumping more than can be usefully absorbed. This includes energy, waste, materials, purpose and appearance.
‘Sustainable’ does have a specific meaning: it was first used by a UN committee in the 70’s to describe a proposal that ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’, ie it provides for you without taking away from them.
In buildings, as in everything, this means by being conscious of all environmental consequences and then minimising them: Reduce Re-use Recycle. We can reduce construction waste and the waste from the building's occupants, we can use sustainable materials in construction, can reduce the energy required for comfort, and make sure all building work improves and not degrades the quality of the surrounding area.
Sustainable architecture has been created through hi-tech highly engineered and serviced urban buildings and also in curvaceous organic architecture, harmonising human lifestyle into the shapes and shelters of the surrounding environment while surviving off the national grid. However recent Planning and Building Regulation changes have brought sustainability firmly into every project, from your neighbour’s new rooflight to Tesco’s new store.
By adapting existing buildings to new uses, reducing carbon emissions from the construction processes and the building itself, improving energy efficiency, encouraging renewable energy and using brownfield sites, we can make the world better for our children.
This does not mean we have to lose out or spend a great deal more. The technology is developing and, hopefully, increased government pump-priming will mean ‘affordable’ as well as ‘sustainable’ will exist comfortably together. Soon we will all learn to live in a ‘zero-carbon’ future - this is the holy grail: live well without eating up any of the planet’s reserves and its ability to heal itself.