Measuring good architecture: Long life, loose fit, low energy

Craig Ashley Langston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Good architecture is something that we all seek, but which is difficult to define. Sir Alexander John Gordon, in his role as
President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, defined ‘good architecture’ in 1972 as buildings that exhibit ‘long life,
loose fit and low energy’. These characteristics, nicknamed by Gordon as the 3L Principle, are measurable. Furthermore, life
cycle cost (LCC) provides a method for accessing the
economic contribution or burden created by buildings to the society they aim to serve. Yet there is no research available to
investigate the connection, if any, between 3L and LCC. It
might be hypothesised that buildings with a high 3L index have a low LCC profile. If this is true, then LCC may be able to
be used to assess ‘good architecture’.This paper uses a
case study methodology to assess the durability, adaptability and sustainability of 22 projects that have won architectural
design awards. The 3L criteria can bemeasured and
compared with average LCC per square metre using a long time horizon. The research is significant in that it tests a process
to objectively assess what is commonly intangible and to determine if LCC is a suitable predictor of ‘good architecture’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-174
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean journal of sustainable development
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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