UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Housing, ecology and technology Rousseau, David Lewis


Science and technology are the operative languages of people in western industrialized society and, to a large degree, define our relationship with nature. This condition may be traced from its emergence in 16th century philosophical movements and the early development of modern science. This philosophical position has been called “scientific materialism”. In terms of housing, it is apparent in the emphasis on isolation from, and control of nature, and in the conspicuous use of energy and material resources in the pursuit of comfort and luxury. However an emerging ecological trend is beginning to influence housing today. The “natural house” and ‘Baubiologie” approaches are examined both as philosophical movements, and as alternatives to conventional building science. Though the real significance of the ecological agenda is not yet apparent in the mainstream, it is argued that conventional high technology alone has a limited value in providing a more “ecological housing”. The single family suburban home in particular is an inappropriate model for this, even with extreme conservation measures. Environmental, social and feminist critiques are discussed. Facing ecological imperatives will require more than new technology. It will require a shift in fundamental outlook: what is expected from housing, what social and community emphasis is needed, and what luxury features can be discarded. Finding the appropriate uses of technology for providing more ecologically responsible housing will require re examination of the fundamental values on which technological choice is based. In this regard, more collective housing forms hold promise for meeting both social and ecological agendas. Those which attempt to deal with resource allocation, urban and community setting and social change within a context of resource efficiency and modesty are more likely to lead the way towards a more sustainable housing future.

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