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The central role of architectural precedent in sustainable architectural design

Sustainability and design quality
Sustainability and design quality

Promoting critical evolution through an integration of the language of sustainability and design quality.

Achieving peer acknowledged excellence in architectural design is widely considered to be the pinnacle of achievement for any practicing architect.

Indeed, at the heart of the learning outcomes of any architectural education is an emerging notion of what architectural excellence is and indeed, notably, this includes knowing how to speak about it. Thus, conveying the professional skill of understanding and knowledge of architectural design language.

Living alongside this is the widely acknowledged need for the built environment broadly and buildings specifically to respond to the environmental, economic and social requirements of sustainability. This has brought about a schism in design practices, whereby sustainable buildings are largely perceived as worthy, pragmatic, but perhaps soulless, while outstanding architecture remains something other.

This work sets out to engage in transformative research to promote a paradigm shift in architectural practice such that the diverging worlds of architectural design excellence and sustainable performance can be synthesised to inform a new more complete, critical and robust language for architectural precedent, with wide reaching impacts.

During this work we will endeavour to promote engagement with the architectural and interdisciplinary design process, meaningfully and accessibly in order to transform it into a more complete critique of design quality, sustainability and performance than currently exists.


  • Gwilliam JA & O’Dwyer, S (2018). Architectural Design and / or Sustainable Building: A Question of Language?”. The Fifth International Conference S.Arch, Venice,  22 – 24th May 2018.
  • Gwilliam JA & O’Dwyer, S (2018). Delivering Sustainable Design Excellence: The potential role of architectural precedent. Submitted to PLEA 2018, Smart & Healthy within the 2 degree limit, Hong Kong, 10-12 December 2018
  • Gwilliam, J. and O'Dwyer, S. 2020. Delivering sustainable design excellence: the potential role of holistic building performance evaluation. Architectural Science Review (10.1080/00038628.2020.1825319)


Sarah O’Dwyer


Dr Julie Gwilliam

Dr Julie Gwilliam

Dean of Postgraduate Studies College of Physical Sciences & Engineering

+44 (0)29 2087 5977