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Prince Charles slams glass, concrete and steel buildings

The Prince of Wales has attacked the use of “environmentally unfriendly” materials such as glass, steel and concrete in his inaugural address at the Institution ofCivil Engineers.

Prince Charles told the audience of engineers that “fashionable” modern designs ignored the long-term health of the environment because they were more likely to be torn down within a few decades.

He said:  “We build in a short-term manner, creating neither durability nor, for that matter, beauty; thus generating, instead, a maintenance burden rather than an asset for the generations that will follow us. 

“Buildings are still too often constructed out of materials that are deeply environmentally unfriendly.  Glass, steel, concrete surely all fall into that category - because of the embodied energy in their production - especially if they are incorporated into designs that are very much ‘in the moment’. 

“I’m afraid if a building is of a fashionable design today it almost inevitably condemns it very quickly to becoming unfashionable – tired looking, out-dated, no longer ‘contemporary’. 

“And so, within thirty or forty years, they are ripe for demolition and replacement.”  

In a half-hour lecture jointly hosted by the ICE and Halcrow, the heir to the throne rallied the industry to change design and behaviour because future generations would not accept “lame excuses”.

He said engineers must shape a more “integrated and longer-term approach” that protects and preserves the environment, arguing the challenge for the industry would be in translating alternative technologies into the mainstream. He cited the Natural (low carbon) House built by his Foundation for Building Community at the Building Research Establishment in Watford. It aims to create a new model, adaptable for volume building which appears contemporary yet timeliness.

The Prince said:  “It does not wear its green credentials like a collection of ‘eco-bling,’ but all the same it is made of something other than conventional bricks.”

The house uses clay bricks and wool insulation to improve energy efficiency while retaining a traditional appearance.

Prince Charles has long championed traditional architectural styles, attempting to implement them at his model village in Poundbury, Dorset.

A planning application for a steel and glass development for London’s Chelsea Barracks site was dropped by the developer after Charles wrote privately to the company’s chairman expressing his concern about the plans.


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