Making morality: Sustainable architecture and the pragmatic imagination

Graham Farmer, Simon Guy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental ethics as a discipline has directed little attention towards the built environment and even less to the process of building design. Conversely, within the professional context of architectural practice, questions of ethics and morality have hardly figured within a rapidly developing discourse of sustainability in which environmental values have tended to be downplayed in the pursuit of quantitative models of environmental innovation. The philosophy of pragmatism potentially provides a useful analytical and moral framework that links the environmental ethics of sustainability to the design, construction, and use of buildings. Pragmatism's embrace of contextual pluralism, its emphasis on experience and practice, and its high regard for the political worth of the community move the discussion away from a narrow focus on predefined and universal codes, whether ethical or technical. Sustainable design should be understood as a 'co-evolutionary' ethical practice, a socio-technical process that engages a wide range of human (and non-human) actors in the production and use of complex architectural artefacts. The aim is to encourage a deeper engagement with sustainable architectural practice, to embrace broader sociological or philosophical questions (beyond narrow 'how to' debates). By exploring sustainable architectures in the plural, new questions can be posed and fresh thinking introduced about sustainable design. © 2010 Taylor and Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-378
Number of pages10
JournalBuilding Research and Information
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


  • Built environment
  • Design practice
  • Ethics
  • Intelligent practice
  • Pragmatism
  • Sustainable building
  • Urban design


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