Sustainable development has its own vernacular created through the need for buildings to utilize the ambient resources of there location to service their functioning. This determines the way buildings are located on their site and their relationship with neighbouring buildings, their planning, massing and orientation, the materials they are constructed from and the way they are serviced and their long term maintenance and eventual dismantling.

Building materials need to be considered, not only for their intrinsic physical, structural, weathering or aesthetic performance but also for their embodied energy and their contribution to the energy requirements in the functioning of the building.

In the fossil fuel age non sustainable architectural design was based on a reliance on non-renewable and energy intense materials and services to meet the purposes of the functioning of buildings. Consideration of the elaborate holistic inter-action of materials and services and the ambient properties of the site is the measure sustainable architecture.

The understanding of the roles of passive and active exploitation of ambient resources is crucial to good sustainable architecture and there is now a flow of papers and articles from academic and institutional publishers to keep abreast of best practice.