OMA’s Reinier de Graaf says the problem with sustainability ratings is “the worst you can be is good”

Reinier de Graaf, partner at Dutch firm OMA, told DesignMENA that sustainability-measuring ratings all have a distinct issue where “the worst you can possibly be is good”.

“And then you move to excellent, outstanding, exceptional, mind blowing and world class,” he said, adding that “the whole inflation of superlatives has effected those lists where the worst you can be is good.”

He pointed out that although he is not fully aware of the Estimada rating in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, other sustainability rating systems such as LEED and BREEAM, both partake in this faux pas.

“I think we ought to drastically adjust that list where the best you can be is good and if you are exceptional, then you really have to be exceptional.”

He also explained that having to follow lists and tick boxes in order to create sustainable architecture is uninspiring for architects.

“As soon as you start ticking boxes it becomes an obligation, he explained. “When something is an obligation it is almost by definition not an intrinsic motivation. It is often by definition not an inspirational thing… it becomes an obligatory thing and hence the language around it becomes incredibly obligatory- sounds incredibly like paying compulsory tribute and then you start to wonder what people really think.”

De Graaf added: “I think there needs to be a whole recalibration of honesty and sustainability.”

The ideal case, he said, “is that architects and planners strive for it without having to be reminded of any lists. That is what we want to get towards”.

He also added that there is a problem with architects’ inability to merge good architecture and beautiful architecture.

“As long as they are two completely different thing, we will continue to encounter an inspirational problem. And we will continue to encounter a creative industry that is almost by default hypocritical.

“And rather than simply rebelling against the language, I don’t know what to do,” de Graaf admitted.

He also told DesignMENA about OMA Dubai that will become the regional office for the region.