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22 March 2016

Cobouw marianne loof 160616 wie het kleine niet eert

A municipality recently invited us to participate in their selection for a modest yet ambitious project: the renovation of a sports complex, including an architectural facelift and a serious step up towards sustainability. The very existence of local neighbourhood sports facilities is typically undermined by high exploitation-costs. A smart move from the municipality, therefore, to seek expert advice on the issue. With LEVS architecten, we have recently drawn much attention with a sustainable depot, which is a net producer of energy, and for which exploitation costs have been halved with respect to ‘ordinary’ sustainability.

Upon closer reading of the selection’s description, the basic request came down to a fully worked-out plan, a pretty façade, and a pleasant price tag. In return the municipality offered an initial compensation of two-thousand euro and a minimum architect’s fee; any price tag above this combined amount would mean negative points in the selection.

Participants to a like selection typically spend thirteen thousand euro on top of initial compensations. In this case, that would mean twenty percent already of the architect’s fee. Suppose you win one out of every four selections; then four times twenty percent, i.e. eighty percent, of the architect’s fee will go to participation costs in selection rounds alone.

Worse still, the requested sustainability transformation in this selection would only be judged by its looks, because a careful scrutiny of the plans was considered ‘too difficult’. This means effectively that our efforts cannot lead to an intelligent, energetically sustainable plan with low exploitation costs, but at most to ‘architectural sustainability’; a green roof, for example. Yet, integral designs and investments in energetic sustainability are what is needed in order to save significantly on exploitation costs later on.

We are happy to share our vision, approach, and the concrete results they can generate, during selection rounds. But designing is the adding of value, not a mere expense. Let’s look at it that way.

As far as this ‘opportunity’ goes, we politely pass.

June 2016,