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Foto: Guido Erbring, Köln
The entire world seems to be wrangling over money at the moment. This is hardly surprising given that Europe’s state coffers will tend to have less and less in them in the future. It would be illusory to believe that the pressure to impose cuts in public budgets will have no effect on climate-change policy; too many technologies and projects continue to depend on public funding, in spite of their long-term necessity.
Up until now, even those with otherwise completely opposing interests have been united in their call for state funds. In future, this call is likely to fall on deaf ears with increasing frequency. Does this mean that aspects relating to design are being completely ignored? And how will our acceptance of the need to protect the climate be affected if such protection becomes more expensive for us? Even now, sociologists are predicting that the willingness to contribute towards incisive measures is more liable to decrease than increase.
At the same time, the suspicion that we have not even started to make substantial savings cannot be denied. Among politicians, heads of industry and the public, the development of renewable forms of energy – not to mention their own set of claims - is considerably more popular than an increase in energy efficiency. »Anything but having to cut back!« is the unanimous cry of the leading thinkers in the sustainability debate.In the long term, however, it is possible that we will be unable to avoid the question »How much is enough?«. Otherwise, the increasing amount of living space per inhabitant and the ongoing consumption of land by our housing estates will make all efforts to achieve greater efficiency appear absurd.
Lifestyles that are sufficient to needs must arise from the conviction of the individual – and are already doing so: more and more employees are doing without higher salaries in favour of more free time or are giving preference to a balanced family life over mobility in their profession. Time, education and social intercourse belong to those resources, whose utilisation does not bring about any negative effects on the environment. What’s more, they are more sought after than ever before today.
Architecture could help to support these lifestyles, especially in times of economic crisis. Where are the residential buildings that equally enable withdrawal and social interaction in a small area; where are the city districts that allow mixed uses and thus, from the onset, avert the issue of mobility; and where are the rooms that remain comfortable even at an indoor temperature of 19 degrees? Doing without the superfluous has nothing to do with self-denial but can very well accompany a rise in the quality of life. At the moment, this insight may be unpopular but the situation could change faster than we might think possible today.