“Value creation by architectural design – daylight as a positive driver” by Peter Andreas Sattrup
Peter Andreas Sattrup
Danish architect MAA PhD and a senior advisor on sustainability
Association of Danish Architectural Firms
Lecture from the 7th VELUX Daylight Symposium “Healthy & climate-friendly architecture– from knowledge to practice” that took place in Berlin on 3-4 May 2017. For more information visit http://thedaylightsite.com
We shouldn’t be content with technical standards alone as a guarantee for sustainability. We need to aim higher, and ask ourselves how architecture contributes to societal development in a wider sense, not least to maintain high aspirations for the quality of the built environment. For this purpose, the Association of Danish Architectural Firms asked its mem-bers to nominate built projects that had documented social, environmental and economic value creation. The results show surprisingly powerful effects, and daylight plays a strong role in many of the best cases.
How does architecture create value? Value is not an inherent property of an object or a design. Rather, value is attributed to things – built environments in the case of architectural design – as a result of how users and communities interpret and engage with them, which is why the dialogic, analytic and empathic aspects of architects’ design processes are so essential to the value creation of buildings and urban environments. Architecture addresses the fundamental human need for a healthy environment in which people thrive. From a very basic viewpoint architecture is about managing knowledge of human needs and aspirations, technology and material resource in order to produce better human habitats. Architecture is about managing resources wisely – human, social, cultural, material, natural and economic capital – in order to advance living conditions, opportunity and welfare. Space is a social, cultural, environmental and economic asset, as reflected in welfare studies, urban livability and even property prices, to name some of many dimensions, although the relations between these are not necessarily direct nor linear.
Daylight has a special places among resources that architectural design deals with as it is linked to health, wellbeing, productivity and learning. Urban and building design has great influence on daylight availability and quality. Daylight may even be very precious and sparse, particularly in dense urban conditions or in climate zones with long winters or frequent dark skies, and the way light is treated in a design is one of the keys to its influence on occupants’ wellbeing. Architecture plays a pivotal role in improving daylight availability as part of the indoor environment, and in producing attractive urban environments that stimulates outdoors life, exercise and sunlight exposure. The Danish Association of Architectural Firms asked its 600 member firms to nominate projects where their projects’ value creation was well documented. It turned out to be a bit of a challenge, since research on the topic was scattered and had to be found from very different research environments. Built projects were sorted and grouped according to the levels of evidence and documentation of their value creation.
Many nominated cases were dismissed due to lack of documentation, which points out that architects and the construction sector in general needs to improve research on the effects of the built environment. But as cases and research were identified and collected, some interesting patterns and stories emerged. It turned out that architecture has much bigger impacts on social life, environment and economy than expected. Sustainability requires value creation in many dimensions, - it is not enough to address the technical functionality alone. Successful architectural design needs to address societal aspects and projects should engage with a wider context in order to provide social and economic value beyond the client’s and users’ needs. The more than 60 cases gathered by the Association of Danish Architectural Firms demonstrate that a broad range of social, environmental and economic value creation can be documented, and that the effects can be surprisingly powerful.
Daylight plays a strong role in the value creation of some of the best cases. Users often cite that integrating aesthetics, functionality and durability is key to projects that are socially appreciated, and provide stimulating environments for their activities. There is however much to be done in order to understand value creation better and in greater detail, and much further research is needed, not least on how daylight is instrumental to design performance in real built environments. This is a challenge to architects, but also demonstrates a potential for better knowledge and improved design solutions. Research based design skills are a business opportunity for architects. Presentation from 7th VELUX Daylight Symposium, for more information please visit http://thedaylightsite.com.
Peter Andreas Sattrup is a Danish architect MAA PhD and a senior advisor on sustainability to the Association of Danish Architectural Firms. He works to promote sustainability in the built environment by consulting on policy making, communication, competence building and innovation in business models for architecture, drawing on his previous experience as a practicing architect working in Denmark and Great Britain, and as an associate professor in design methods at the Technical University of Denmark. He is an experienced communicator, having given presentations at universities and conferences internationally and having co-curated the seminal exhibition ‘Green Architecture for the Future’ at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art coinciding with the UN COP15 climate summit in Copenhagen. Architects wield great powers through their design skills and the choices they make in each project, but that is often little understood and even less appreciated, which is why Peter Andreas Sattrup is working on documenting and communicating how architectural design creates value based on Danish cases. The initial results demonstrate some surprisingly powerful effects that architectural design may have on social activities as well as environmental and economic performance, but there is plenty of research to be done in order to understand value creation by architectural design with greater precision and to develop tools and methods that can assist enhanced design performance.