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Medal Winner 2005

Is relative sustainability relevant? A discussion of 'Inn the Park' as a 'sustainable' restaurant.

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Jess Hrivnak
University of Cambridge | UK
Sustainability is a new catch phrase that is used for everything that seems good and desirable. However, how can we quantify what a sustainable building is? And how can we measure a building’s impact?

Hopkins’ recently completed ‘Inn the Park’ building has been heralded as an environmental flagship enterprise. Taking this project as a case study, this thesis seeks to scrutinise the various environmental standards and criteria by which the building can be assessed.

Rather than using only one assessment method, this thesis aims to provide an overview of the ecological issues involved in the whole design, construction and post-occupancy impacts of the building. Through detailed analysis of the principal environmental strategies, the embodied energy incurred in the building fabric, the consequences of material choice as well as the operational energy and occupancy behaviour, this thesis aims to gauge the building’s overall environmental impact. The analysis also seeks to highlight some of the conflicts and tensions between energy expenditure, building efficiency and economics. Moreover, this case study demonstrates what influence architects can have and how they can contribute positively to achieving more sustainable buildings.

In gauging ‘Inn the Park’s sustainability, it is prudent to be realistic as to its potential achievements. At the end of the day it is a commercial restaurant where societal expectations must be met. Certain levels of comfort must be maintained, cooking equipment is energy intensive and added to this are the ecological impacts incurred in food sourcing. Therefore a comparison to other ‘green’ buildings can be misleading, yet within its parameters ‘Inn the Park’ does achieve a level of sustainability.

Thus the question and value of relative sustainability is addressed- a ‘sustainable’ building is invariably relative; it is better than the status quo, and in a world where idealism has to bow to commercial and practical imperatives it is relevant to strive for relative sustainability. Architecture can be used as an agent for change and powerful symbol to enable a process of change in life-style choices that will be required to be truly sustainable.

Jess Hrivnak

We are still at a stage of infancy in knowing how to meet the challenges faced by the global environment. Jess has taken one small building and using the best of architectural forensic skills uncovered the underlying questions about its claims on sustainability. The standard of analysis and argument, and the perceptive overview that she achieved, distinguished her dissertation from the high standard of writing produced by this year’s diploma studio at Cambridge. Her dissertation succeeds in arriving at a level of thought provocative of wider architectural discourse, which I hope will lead to its publication.

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