The elements of architecture: Principles of environmental performance in buildings, by Scott Drake, Earthscan, 2009

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Bosman, Caryl
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2011
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Literature on sustainable architecture is becoming more prolific as we enter the second decade of the 2000s. This is perhaps not surprising given the alarming predictions and forecasts for cities, the ecology and life in general. In this context, Scott Drake’s book is a timely addition to the growing body of knowledge relating to sustainable design. Although sustainable design per se is not the focus of the book and Environmental Sustainable Design (ESD) principles are only given a token mention, nonetheless most of Drake’s principles of environmental performance are embedded in sustainable design practices. It is important to note Drake’s use of the word ‘environment’, he understands ‘environment’, in a very generic sense, as the space in which we live, work and play. He says (p. x) the book ‘explores the idea of a building as an environmental filter’ creating ‘comfortable’ environments for people to inhabit. The stated aim of the book is ‘to show that environmental considerations are among the most fundamental of all design decisions affecting the size, shape and orientation of any building’ (p. ix). Drake’s claim is important because throughout the book he alludes to the history of particular technologies and practices to demonstrate their robustness and their import to current architectural practices. This history telling is also important because the book is aimed at a relatively uninformed audience, presumably first-year undergraduate students, who have little or no understanding of the fundamentals of geography. The result is an easy to read, easy to understand book that a more informed reader may find somewhat benign; with claims like (p. 35) ‘the principal source of light is the sun, which provides natural light directly, as sunlight, and indirectly, as daylight.’ The book is replete with similar, somewhat obvious, explanations.

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48
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2
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© 2011 Taylor & Francis (Routledge). This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Australian Planner on 08 Jun 2011, available online: https://doi.org/10.1080/07293682.2010.517765
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Urban and regional planning
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