Without canvas

How much does it cost to get a pack of 16 AAA batteries home if we order them through Amazon? If we do not enjoy our Amazon Prime subscription, the price is €3.95, but if we have chosen to compete with Netflix, while we have our free shipments, the cost will be €0. That’s good, isn’t it?

We don’t see it that way.

What is the real cost for that small package of no more than 300g to reach our home? Let’s reason it out.

  1. The package is produced in a factory that can be anywhere in the world.
  2. The product is taken to the nearest “processing centre”.
  3. If the shipment is in the same country, the package will be taken to centers located near the destination. In case of going to another country, the package will be taken to the “processing center” of the destination country, and this step will be repeated to take it to the localized center.
  4. Once in the localized center, the package will be taken by courier to the door of our homes.

Do we see a problem with this chain? At first glance everything seems to be working fine. If we compare it with the distribution chain that makes a supermarket or a local market work, it is very similar. The only point left over is the last one, as the package does not end up in our house. Is that a substantial difference?

We think so, and in most cases, users don’t realize that difference. To understand this, let’s think of another example: Our shopping list. Wanting to save our time and our money leads us to organize our shopping list. Few times will we go to the supermarket to buy a specific product exclusively. Can we imagine going to the supermarket to buy each product on our list individually? How many trips will we have given?

That’s where the difference lies. Organization.

We asked for that 16 AAA battery pack at the time, because suddenly that need arises. We did not consider at any time the possibility of waiting to order several products at once to try to make less trips to the door of our house. We need it now and we want it now.

What if we extrapolate this to the rest of the population?

More and more people are shopping on the Internet. Watch out! Don’t get confused, we’re not against shopping through this medium, but we do believe that its use is rising without being aware of what that means for the environment.

Unconscious from the comfort of our sofa

What does everything from before have to do with our field of expertise? You may be wondering. What they have in common is the passivity of society. We notice that more and more people want to live locked up in their homes, interacting as little as possible with others, and, if they have to do so, is to give us things done. We want simplicity. We believe we enjoy life sitting on the sofas of our living room worshipping the modern temple of the last century, that silly box, which now seems to have changed the scale to become a pocket temple in this 21st century. One topic that is perhaps very critical and that would be interesting to address on another Tuesday.

Are we really aware of what it means to want simplicity in the world of architecture? How does this way of facing reality affect our environment?

The most obvious thing is that we forget about the local and look for standard solutions. We seem to have forgotten what a structure means. The materials it can be made of. If we now move away from the dynamics of steel or concrete porticoes, we will be risking that they put obstacles in our way, and we will not try to make a structure by means of load-bearing walls, since then will come the earthquake and Cype to tell us that it does not comply with the regulations. Why complicate ourselves if we can repeat the same solution until satiety? No need to adapt to local offers, needs, or ideas and coherence with the project. We think that ordering a truck mixer is going to be cheaper than working with local carpenters. This may be the case, but in the strictly economic sense.

What about social? What about carbon footprint? What about coherence?

And beware, that carbon footprint talk would give us for another Tuesday. Have we ever wondered what it costs to light a kiln to produce cement? And steel? And for its subsequent transport?

We can still get more complicated… What if we start to consider other materials as well? What about the carbon footprint generated by producing the much-used thermal insulators? Have we ever wondered if the fact that they now come in pallets with green linings are already ecological?

Without canvas

Without a planet for our works we are going to be left if we do not begin to be aware of all these aspects – and so many others of which this humble servant knows little -. If we want to avoid that, it is enough to enjoy the profession again.

Beauty lies in complexity. In thought. In pausing to effectively solve the problems before us. We should start designing architectures that work with these criteria in mind. Think about the carbon footprints we are going to produce when choosing our materials, something that in many cases is linked to the distances they come from, as well as to their manufacturing processes or possibilities of reuse – not recycling -.

Let’s look for complexity and get used to projecting with it. Only by making this the habit of our profession will we be able to reverse the terrible number that accompanies us in terms of demolition or construction waste -44,926 tons registered in Spain in 2008-.

After all, the situation in the Amazon today is a tragedy, we can cry, protest, outrage. But we must be aware that if we want to be consistent with that thought of protecting our planet, every time we don’t try to convince a client to use local materials, to deny a developer an easy and immediate solution, or to forget what to do with the waste we produce in a project, we will be committing negligence.

Do we choose to be consistent, please? Let us act out of will, and not because in a short time it will be the regulations that forces us to do so.

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