Evidence-based design

I'm sad that this – or at least the more rigorous application of it – is a relatively new practice. (emphasis added by me)

[James Timberlake, FAIA, of  KieranTimberlake, says,] “If we weren’t using evidence before, what the hell were we doing when we were designing? To me and Steve [Kieran], what’s new is the fact that architects are formalizing deep research methodologies to inform design and design practices.”

. . .

Transitioning a firm into an evidence-based design methodology presents a host of firm culture change issues. It’s essentially asking architects to acknowledge all the things they know they don’t know and to abandon their tried and true way of designing in exchange for taking on new and unfamiliar roles as informal researchers. Hamilton and Watkins present this way of practicing as the death of the romantic Fountainhead vision of the architect as an isolated savant whose ideas emerge from inherent wellsprings of raw creativity. . .

Through sustainable design or any other name, evidence-based design has changed (and is still changing) architecture in ways past generations did not foresee. . .

But on the other hand, I suppose with the need to prove that sustainable design practices really do work better than other ways of doing things (does more daylighting mean greater productivity? will that "green" heating system save you money? etc.), more architects have found it necessary to really get into proving that their design ideas are what will serve the client best, rather than going with the stereotypic, "I am Architect, I am a creative genius, and I know what the best solution is." I know that one of the criticisms of LEED has been that buildings get their certification before they prove that their energy efficiency measures actually work as promised, and there isn't sufficient evidence (yet) to prove that LEED buildings will perform well. The standards set by the Living Building Challenge require that buildings operate for a year before they can earn their certification, because that organization wants proof before they give their stamp of approval.

And I agree with another statement in the article – “In design school, I always thought that the hardest project was the one without parameters,” says Steve McDowell, FAIA – rather than limiting creativity, having these constraints (based in reality! and facts!) can be inspiring, because having all the freedom in the world can make it very challenging to come up with a good solution. I'd also rather have good evidence that my proposal will work, rather than make a guess based on what seems like it makes sense; I want my designs to work, and solve problems, and be even better than hoped, not just be aesthetic statements that also keep the rain off people's heads.

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