University building in France

66 Lacaton & Vassal’s ability to produce extra space at no additional cost constitutes a radical break that challenges the standards on which architecture and sustainability are founded. The virtually unmediated relationship between a project’s budget and surface area is taken at face-value in architecture and is often used as a crutch: the smaller a budget, the lower the quality of the space. By optimizing construction costs, Lacaton & Vassal are able to modify this equation so that a mini- mum budget can translate into a maximum space. The surplus value generated by the use of efficient industrial and agricultural building systems is reinvested into the production of additional space. The perfor- mative intelligence of these systems gives rise to a new economics of architecture in which the budget is not judged by the price of a square meter, but according to the correspondence between the project’s total cost and its potential. For Lacaton & Vassal, it is this high capacity-to-cost ratio that makes industrial construction processes and greenhouse tech- nologies so economically viable. More than doubling a slab’s load-bearing capacity only adds 5–10% onto the initial cost of the slab, a negligible price in comparison to the potential that it adds to the building, which can be programmatically recycled for virtually any use. However, environmentally friendly and cost-cutting non-architectural building systems are not widely applied in architecture because they are neither widely known nor accepted. With the shift from the private to the public field, Lacaton & Vassal have found that regulatory bodies are reluctant to incorporate greenhouse technologies, regardless of their abili- ty to withstand severe weather conditions and to regulate interior climates with greater precision than traditional architectural approaches. This sur- prising misalignment between sustainable standards and architectural building regulations reflects architecture’s outdated protectionist attitude. No room for standards in sustainable construction