Parameters of sustainability in architectural and urban design: Need for monitoring of parameters of sustainability in studio works of students of architecture at FA STU in Bratislava

Klára Macháčová, Gregor Radinger, Karol Görner


People these days are already fully aware of the need to move firmly on the path towards sustainability principles. Despite the fact that current scientific and technical progress already enables us to achieve sustainability in many areas, we tend to hesitate and still follow outdated principles. The field of architecture and urban design is not an exception in this respect. Architecture and urban design are still often perceived as arts and crafts disciplines, slowly implementing scientific and technical knowledge. The change to this paradigm must be attempted early on, in the process of educating students – the emerging generation of architects.

Architectural and urban design studios are undoubtedly the most important courses at the Faculty of Architecture, and it is where students should be encouraged to observe not only visual and functional parameters but also the other parameters contributing to the sustainability of their designs. The study selected the most important parameters of sustainability that should be observed in the architectural and urban design projects of students, future professional architects. Following the logical order from a bigger whole to details, the sustainability parameters have been divided into urban and architectural. Urban design sustainability parameters focus on the whole design and in this respect take precedence over architectural parameters that concentrate on details. From this perspective, urban design parameters must be respected in both urban and architectural designs.

Urban design parameters of sustainability include: location, connectivity, form of urban structure, density of build-up area, green infrastructure, presence of residents, functional structure, accessibility of basic amenities, environmental parameters and public space

Furthermore, the specific requirements for buildings and structures are expressed by the architectural parameters of sustainability: aesthetics, functionality and adaptability, building life cycle, energy efficiency, use of renewable energy potential and selection of materials

Application of urban design and architectural parameters of sustainability was verified on a selected student design (VIZÁR, Martin. Multi-purpose house. Diploma thesis. Bratislava: Faculty of Architecture, STU in Bratislava, 2019.). The primary objective was not to assess the sustainability of the selected design itself, but to show the practical approach to the possible assessment of sustainability parameters in studio designs.

The analysis of the student design showed that the anticipated functional use of the area corresponds to the central location within the city. The design relies on good connectivity of the area, although it does not attempt to improve it. The designed mass-spatial concept responds appropriately to the surrounding urban structure form and complements it with new, currently absent attributes. The density of build-up area in the design indicates a rather inefficient use of the land.However, the strengths of the design lie in the compositional consistency, human scale and emphasis on public space. The analysis of greenery confirmed the expected decrease in the share of greenery in favour of new buildings and structures, although, at the same time, it proved that by applying appropriate principles the student managed to maintain a high standard of ecological quality of greenery.

As regards population presence and functional structure, the design implies an increase in population density, with a slight decrease in the proportion of housing function. The increase in public amenities can be perceived positively; nevertheless, considering the possibilities offered by the location and connectivity, it could have been even higher. Good accessibility of basic public amenities creates conditions for efficient functioning of the site and justifies the planned increase in the number of residents. Even though the proposal builds on the already existing good accessibility of public amenities, it does not contribute to its further improvement. In contrast, environmental and public space parameters of sustainability are well taken into account and the design offers several positive ideas enriching the location also in a wider context. From architectural perspective, it can be stated that the student used traditional means of expression and achieved a cultivated and aesthetic, even if perhaps too conservative, expression. The positive aspects of the design are the concept of spatial adaptability, utilization of recycled and recyclable materials and use of solar energy both passively and actively and the collection and use of rainwater.

The retrospective assessment of the diploma thesis showed that the student quite comprehensively incorporated most of the selected parameters of sustainability. At the same time, however, certain shortcomings or potential areas for design improvement were identified that could have been covered at the creative stage of concept preparation. The aim of this study was to summarize the key parameters of sustainability whose monitoring would allow for uncovering these potential areas of improvement at the analytical stage and for incorporating them into the final design. The monitoring of these parameters should also be reflected in the final evaluation of studio designs. Students’ architectural and urban studio designs could be exposed to more constructive criticism, as it should motivate students to create more complex works of higher quality.

Keywords: FA STU, architecture, parameters, Bratislava, urban design, sustainability, studio work