Keywords: sustainability, natural ventilation, environmental technologies, consensus, social construction, design logics, competing pathways, sustainable architecture
Conditional constructions: environmental discourses on natural ventilation
The critical potential of the concept of sustainability may depend on its ability to provide a space for a meaningful dialogue about the possible appropriate relationships between technology, nature and society. However, the contemporary interpretation of sustainable building reflects a process in which a global, consensual and technocratic vision of environmental change has tended to dominate the debate. The example of natural ventilation serves to highlight this process. Whilst potentially providing an opportunity for a wider questioning of the nature and extent of technological intervention, natural ventilation has become predominantly and narrowly associated with resource efficiency. This paper suggests an alternative understanding and re-presents natural ventilation as a social expression of contrasting and often contradictory environmental values. Through an analysis of competing discourses around natural ventilation, the paper emphasises the interplay of distinct design logics and the contested nature of environmental innovation. In doing so, the paper illustrates the possible diversity of technological pathways towards sustainable architecture.