For a more sober housing: a frugal and creative architecture

Sobriety is also in our habitat! Low land use, local and bio-sourced materials, positive energy: Dominique Gauzin-Müller. Architect, professor of architecture and member of the group of independent experts of the association Negawatts, explains the approach of frugal and creative architecture.


The multi-faceted crisis that is shaking the world calls into question our lifestyles, in particular the wasteful practices in land and raw materials that have been propagated for several decades. The responsibility of the building and public works sector is heavy. A radical and immediate change of its practices is necessary.


This is what the “Manifesto for a happy and creative frugality” defends. The objective is an architecture that is more respectful of the living world, that transforms the existing before building new. That values ecological materials and artisanal know-how, that favors simple and robust technical solutions.


A humanist and solidarity-based approach

The building sector is responsible for approximately 40% of CO2 emissions and produces 40% of waste while consuming 60% of natural resources. To participate in the necessary paradigm shift, three pioneers of eco-responsible architecture launched, in January 2018. The “Manifesto for happy and creative frugality in architecture and the development of urban and rural territories”.


In addition to the issues around climate change, it is the awareness of the waste of raw materials that dictates a sobriety of uses. As it is not possible to grow indefinitely on a finite planet, especially with a galloping demography, frugality is bound to impose itself very quickly. Deployed voluntarily today, in solidarity with future generations and less favored countries. It will contribute to the establishment of a model of society that is both more ecological and more equitable.


Read also: “Sustainable architecture: the environmentally friendly concept”


A posture

Frugality is the just consumption of the fruits of the Earth. The signatories of the manifesto have therefore been called “gleaners”. In architecture and land use planning, frugality is first and foremost a posture that affects three areas of action: a very balanced use of land.


The reduction of energy consumption with a minimum of technicality and the priority to ecological construction materials from the region. Far from the renunciation often associated with degrowth, this approach is carried by an optimistic vision. Which encourages creativity and reinforces benevolent human relations.


The emergence of a movement

Considered by a growing number of citizens as necessary and beneficial, frugality brings people together. In May 2021, the manifesto had already been signed by more than 12,200 people from 65 countries, creating a truly international movement. A quarter of the signatories are from civil society.


The others are building professionals: 35% architects, 10% engineers and 20% urban planners, landscapers, etc. All overseas departments and regions are represented, and about 10% of the signatories live abroad.


Little by little, local groups have emerged in Brittany, Lorraine, Alsace, Morocco, Vietnam, etc. Today, about thirty active groups share the frugal approach within their territory by organizing professional and festive meetings, visits to work sites, etc.


Energy frugality

In the field of energy, the “Manifesto for a happy and creative frugality” advocates sober and efficient solutions to ensure thermal comfort in all seasons. When needs have been minimized by bioclimatic measures, reinforced insulation and natural ventilation. They can be covered by locally produced renewable energy.


In both new buildings and renovations, inventiveness and collective intelligence lead to robust solutions that rely on the involvement of the occupants. “It is possible to build healthy, pleasant buildings without mechanical ventilation or air conditioning, or even without heating.


We know how to do it and it doesn’t cost more. Why not generalize these practices? “Frugality refuses the hegemony of the technical vision: “It is not the building that is intelligent, it is its inhabitants.


Read also: “Architects have imagined what a Martian city could look like”


The rise of the human

Frugality concerns the relationship with the environment. The choice of materials with low environmental impact, a bioclimatic design favoring natural ventilation. But above all the adequacy with the wishes and needs of the users. It aims at the decrease of material, but advocates the growth and the blossoming of human relations, in all their richness.


This requires a holistic approach that brings together all the actors of the project from the beginning. In order to share knowledge and create synergy between the various skills.


The design of frugal buildings is often the subject of a participatory approach that includes future users and even local residents. It establishes a benevolent collaboration between the client, the architects of the design and control offices, the companies, etc.


This movement shows a possible balance between tradition and modernity. It ratifies the return of the vernacular, the short circuits, the exploration of the genius of the place and the recognition of the intelligence of the h

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