“Radical common sense” is a term used by some preservationists to describe a mindset that values repair over replacement. Writing in the Fall 2015 issue of Architecture Boston, architects Jean Carroon, FAIA and Ben Carlson explore why this may be seen as radical. Carroon and Carlson note at the top of their article that “while reuse of water bottles and grocery bags is rapidly gaining ground, reuse of buildings and building components is not.”
The authors note that it is “almost always less expensive and easier to replace a whole building and almost any of its elements — doors, windows, light fixtures — than to repair and reuse. Replacement also can offer measurable and consistent quality with product certifications and warranties not available for repaired items. Theoretically, a new building can ensure “high performance” and significantly reduce the environmental impact of building operations while creating healthier spaces. What’s not to like?”
But if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And in the course of their essay, they make the case that in chasing new solutions, we have neglected the time-tested way towards sustainability. In the process humans have used more raw materials and created more waste in the past 50 years than in all previous history.
I like their closing paragraph:
“Radical common sense requires moving past our throwaway culture to a regenerative world that creatively and persistently embraces stewardship. The path to a healthy, sustainable world is complex and certainly not linear, and it may never be fully achieved. But we cannot consume our way to sustainability. We must flip this dangerous paradigm and place real economic and social value on what already exists and the stewardship required to maintain it.”
I believe it is time to put that radical common sense to use.
More to come…