Will the Stirling Prize winner be sustainable?
Photo: Marie-Louise Halpenny

Will the Stirling Prize winner be sustainable?

At the time of writing RIBA’s Stirling Prize winning project is just hours away from being announced. But how sustainable will the winner be?

According to RIBA the award is given to “the architects of the building which has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year.” However it’s not clear that sustainability plays a significant part in the judges’ thinking.

When the six finalists were announced in July I emailed the following questions to the press officer for the awards:

  • Are entrants asked to submit evidence of their project's overall sustainability, such as an environmental assessment rating (eg BREEAM, LEED, the Code for Sustainable Homes)?
  • Are entrants asked to submit evidence of their project's energy consumption and associated carbon emissions (such as Sap or SBEM calculations, EPCs and/or PHPP calculations)?
  • Are entrants asked to submit airtightness test results and or thermal imaging, so as to verify that theoretical energy performance has not been undermined by poor construction quality?
  • Are entrants asked to submit evidence that their projects satisfy all requirements of building regulations?

RIBA’s response: “In answer to your questions, we do ask entrants to fill in a sustainability form, and they supply a one page description of how sustainability featured in their design. We don’t ask for thermal imaging or evidence that they satisfy building regulations.”

The answer didn’t inspire confidence, and my follow up request for a more detailed response went unanswered. So in the absence of clear information on the awards assessment criteria, we’re none the wiser on whether any of the finalists have genuinely robust sustainability credentials, and whether this was taken into account in the adjudication process. Which raises some awkward questions. If such a significant architectural prize doesn’t address sustainability in 2013, what does that say about the state of the profession? Is it possible that the Stirling Prize winner will cause significant pollution over its lifespan – and pick up its award on the day before the latest IPCC report on climate change is released? Is the institute serious about sustainability?

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 November 2013 12:52

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