When visiting Rome, I was completely awestruck by the 2000 year old concrete dome of the Pantheon. I stood there with my jaw dropped: “What a life cycle value!”, wondering why our modern concrete with all the super technology and equipment cannot often last even one generation.
I have a deep respect for the wisdom and skills of classical and vernacular designers, and as a designer today, I often draw from it; however I am not completely convinced that our modern day buildings need to last a very long time. After all, only some of the old buildings survived this long; most did not. Will any of the buildings of our era last even a few hundred years? Do they have to?
Our society and lifestyles change quickly. New, exciting and easier to live with materials come up every day. Everything around us changes with lightning speed. And so our buildings will have to change with us. What is crucial however, is that we do not waste the materials, but reuse – and LEED recognizes that, and not only that; it is about the whole building design, where all systems and design decisions come to play together. It definitely is not perfect; it is a fairly new system but is a good start.
It would be nice to leave our architectural footprint that will tell the story of our times to future generations, but at the same time, we have to be very frugal with material resources and tread gently on the environment with our 21st century lifestyle.