Environmentally sustainable design works best when it’s embedded and invisible, says director of Env


New breed of green design professionals: Wheeler was a regular
on the panel of ABC-TV’s The New Inventors and was director of
Environa, a Sydney-based firm that specialised in creating smaller and
smarter buildings. He is one of a growing breed of design professionals
interested in sustainable design and building. There is nothing
particularly “alternative” about Tone, except perhaps his first name.
“The green fanatics – or you could call them the green nazis – are so
rabid about it that they are unreasonable,” he said. “There aren’t many
of them but they tend to want us to make houses that over-emphasise the
green ‘hairshirt’ issues at the expense of comfortable living.”

Green aware clients go for the subtle approach: The second kind
of client attracted by Wheeler’s firm is the “green aware”, he said.
These are people for whom the desire to use less energy in their house
is “at the top of their agenda”. “They want an air-conditioner but they
want to use less energy and they want a higher standard of living.”

The great green dumb: The third category, the “green dumb”, are
the clients “for whom we put green things in and tell them afterwards”
Wheeler reveals. “If we were to tell them beforehand they might baulk
at it because they think it might lower their lifestyle.”

Embedded and invisible design works best: Environmentally
sustainable design (ESD) seems to work best when it is embedded and
invisible. “We built a house for one client and he loved it,” Wheeler
said. He fitted squarely into the third category, the “green dumb”.
ESD, in other words, just wasn’t on the radar when he commissioned
Environa to design his home. “The house was highly celebrated and
photographed,” Wheeler says, and it won a couple of ESD awards. “And
then at one point the client said to me: ‘Tone, what is ESD?’ And I
said to him ‘that’s what your house is. You know how you don’t have to
put air-conditioning on or the heating on and you are comfortable year
round and your bills have gone down and you have rainwater to water
your , garden. That’s ESD’,” says Wheeler. “If you bury it in the
building and don’t proselytise, it’s better,” he says. The principles
should be sold as “an improvement in the quality of life and because it
works better”.

The Australian, 26/11/2005, p. 9

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