Choosing Wisdom over Intelligence
Energy effectiveness also requires ‘Intelligent Design’ – meant here as a consideration of all interactions at the highest system level and anticipating unexpected side-effects. For instance, some poor designs meant to improve energy efficiency of buildings have led to major problems in terms of comfort and health for the building occupants. As mentioned earlier, reducing air leakage from the building envelope and ductwork is typically among the most substantial improvements that can be made to reduce operational energy use. Sealing the building envelope leads to a reduction in the air exchanges previously achieved by ‘natural ventilation’. The desired effect is a reduction in the HVAC operational energy. However, when poorly designed, the undesired side-effect is an increase in potentially harmful volatile organics, radon, moisture and mold growth, with negative impact on the comfort and health of the building occupants. On the other hand, when properly planned by combining air tight envelopes with mechanical ventilation
systems having integrated heat exchangers, very low operational energy consumption can be achieved, down to the level of ‘passive house’ standard, while at the same time providing good air quality to the building occupants.
The challenges both designers and businesses face when moving from traditional design and production methods to ones that promote a sustainable future are huge. For the designer, it is important to appreciate, what building owners really want: Sustainability, but not at the expense of performance and aesthetics! Designers who balance and optimize the technical and aesthetic life-span requirements for a building product or component with the environmentally related characteristics and performance attributes can reduce the energy and materials dedicated to these requirements.
The adhesives and sealants industry as well as academia will choose wisely if they seek out the environmental attributes that can be delivered by their products with the key aim of lowering the operational energy consumption and the life-cycle costs of the building. Enhancing a product’s function and life span with the added benefit of improving its environmental profile and impact should be a key focus in future research and development efforts. More effort can be put into the design phase of building materials, such as adhesives and sealants, building components, building systems, and finally the whole building to truly achieve improved sustainability. As highlighted a number of times in this preface, durability and sustainability are related in different ways and at different levels. As an industry, will we choose wisely? Will we see more papers and presentations on this topic at one of the future Durability of Building and Construction Sealants and Adhesives symposia?
Maybe ‘Intelligent Design’ is not an adequate term anyway. Intelligence predicts the success of individuals without regard to the consequences of their success to others. Wisdom, however, reflects the ability to make adaptive decisions in a social context. It requires altruism, balanced judgment, competent reality testing, and a consistent view of the big picture. This is why wisdom, not intelligence, applies to the survival of species.
What we must strive to achieve is sustainability, supporting the longterm ecological balance, certain in the knowledge that “the most sustainable energy is the energy saved”. ‘Wise Design’ takes this fundamental truth into account, and has the potential of truly living up to the expectations of Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern biological classification (taxonomy), who in 1758 applied the name Homo sapiens (Wise Man) to our species.
Andreas T. Wolf Wiesbaden, Germany