In addition to emergency plans for the rescue of banks and state finances, projects for the future still exist in the EU, for example in the area of climate protection. In June 2010, the new Energy Performance of Buildings Directive came into effect and, on the following pages, we discuss the arguments for and against it. As is always the case with political proposals for the future, the implementation of the directive in national law will be subject to what is considered desirable and what is realistic, what can be financed and where there is possibly no alternative. Whereby, especially in environmental policy, apparent utopias have often turned out to be feasible. One example is renewable forms of energy. In Germany, their development in the last ten years has even gone beyond the most optimistic prognoses that industrial and environmental associations dared to make at the turn of the century.
However, there is no reason to rest on our laurels. For this reason, the new directive – irrespective of the imponderables associated with it – rightly imposes ambitious requirements on the energy efficiency of buildings. Equally important, however, is that architects and planners be given a certain amount of latitude instead of having to employ explicitly prescribed individual technologies. Variety in architecture is a high good and nothing would be less desirable than a catalogue of measures that is ordained by a legislator in a way that levels and standardises sustainable building.
The examples of buildings in this issue show that there is no danger of this happening for the time being. They also demonstrate that not only politicians but also every project has to engage in a balancing act between the „desirable“ and the „feasible“. One example is the headquarters of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which had to meet the standards of Minergie-P-Eco und LEED Platinum without any additional costs. Another example is the »One Brighton« housing project which attempts to make a future utopia – the return to a way of life that no longer overuses our natural resources – compatible with the requirements of the British real-estate market. In the end, both projects required at least as much unconventional thinking from their architects as the experimental building of the Villa Welpeloo in Enschede, 60% of which is made of recycled materials. And while we are talking about lateral thinking: we recommend reading the articles by Martin Zeumer and Joost Hartwig, who question the image of plastics as non-sustainable building materials, and the contribution to be discussion made by Kevan Shaw, who takes a critical look at the current boom in lighting with LEDs.