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Essential diversity.


Edited by Koen Steemers and Mary Ann Steane. London: Spon Press, 2004. [pounds sterling]32.50

This book addresses the human response to the environment in and around buildings. It is diverse by title and diverse in subject. The chapters are papers collected from and based on recent research thinking. The research is important because it shows how we can make buildings better for people by understanding their need for diversity--especially in their demands on the environment. The book deals mostly with light, heat, and sound.

The reason the book is so important is that the implications for energy used in buildings are very wide. Buildings need to be able to select their energy exchange with the ambient environment so that people are comfortable inside buildings without their being modified using carbon fuel. The standard approach to services design sets fixed targets to be achieved and this implies that carbon fuel is often needed to heat or cool a building during the same short period measured in hours. Lighting design targets are set at levels which are not diverse and can hardly be reached with natural lighting. Recently narrow acoustic standards have been set for enforcement in schools and these demand increased use of fossil fuels.

The book should have a place at every practitioners elbow because it is a source of quotable instances to justify a diverse approach to environmental standards in buildings. I work in this field and found my reactions swinging strongly from approval to disapproval, but the overall approach to a very difficult subject is wonderful and I hope it is the start of a long development.

There is another issue about this book in that it illustrates how difficult it is to classify architectural research as belonging to science or to the humanities: it puts Fanger comfort theory into context as scientific research. As it deals with the subjective response of people the subject is a humanity. How does this square with the research assessment parameters?
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Title Annotation:Environmental Diversity In Architecture
Author:Fordham, Max
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 2005
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