ROBERT ADAM NIGEL ANDERSON PAUL HANVEY HUGH PETTER GEORGE SAUMAREZ SMITH

ADAM Architecture believes in learning from the past by using traditional materials and design. The most sustainable buildings have thermally stable, solid walls made from local materials and locally produced components. They respond to solar and climactic conditions with windows positioned and sized for light and ventilation and to gain or dissipate heat. Our designs most sustainable quality is that they last, because they are robust, adaptable and easy to maintain. They are, quite simply, like the thousands of traditional buildings that have lasted for centuries because they were built when energy was rare and expensive. Today we can follow their example, but do it better – better insulated and serviced.

Traditional materials are often abundant locally and manufactured or extracted using low energy technology and when these buildings reach the end of their lives they are recyclable.

Sprawling plans and large expanses of glass are avoided, reducing the need for high technology, energy hungry, environmental control. Research has demonstrated that traditional, heavyweight, lightly glazed buildings perform much better than modernist, lightweight, extensively glazed buildings.

And traditional buildings last. Many are centuries old and endlessly adaptable to new uses - the most effective sustainability strategy of all.

Arranging these buildings in dense, mixed-use, socially integrated communities where day to day needs can be satisfied without recourse to a car will ensure a yet more sustainable future. And if these developments are born out of careful community consultation they will satisfy local needs, reinforce a sustainable lifestyle and allow for future growth underpinned by the same environmental principles. These communities offer opportunities for renewable energy supply, recycling, integrated public transport and a market for local agriculture and industry. Of course, there is a place for new technology; to minimise waste, provide renewable energy and water and to improve the environmental performance of these traditionally constructed buildings.

Research and experience has shown us what all environmental engineers know, but many architects are reluctant to accept; traditional buildings are the most sustainable buildings.