They want to maintain that livelihood. And for 90% of the world, being sustainable is a matter of life and death (Agnew n.d.)." To that end in 2007 they Architecture for Humanity launched the Open Architecture Network "an online, open source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design" where designers, engineers, and anyone else, professional or otherwise can share their ideas, designs and plans, collaborate, manage design projects from concept to implementation and build a more sustainable future (Open Architecture Network n.d.)
In addition to Sinclair and McDonough there are a wide range of architects and designers who are beginning to understand that their role is not simply to satisfy their own egos or curiosities but rather to help facilitate the sustainability of communities and human society at large. The New York-Based consulting firm Terrapin Bright Green, for example, was started by four architects who recognized the need for policy makers, designers, architects and government to work together to help create more sustainable consultants.
The Rocky Mountain Institute, started by, Amory Bloch Lovins "work in the built environment takes an integrated approach by seeking to increase energy efficiency while simultaneously addressing building and community design, comfort, and health" as well as to dismiss the notion that increasing energy efficiency or taking steps to reduce emissions negatively affects economics, comfort, or aesthetics (Rocky Mountain Institute: Built Environment n.d.)." Their work includes creating residential and commercial sustainability guidelines for Kennecott Land, the fastest-selling community in Utah, to advising on both energy and day lighting analysis and design to aid in the construction of the efficient and LEED Silver Certified Clackamas High School (Rocky Mountain Institute n.d.).
Increasingly designers who were more into pushing the limits of what could be built from a purely technological aesthetic - highest tower, or neatest design - are now more engaged with pushing the limits of ways of incorporating sustainability. For example, design firm StudioDosi, has proposed a double-skinned, vegetation-covered headquarters for the Province of Parma in Italy (Meinhold, Living Exoskeleton Proposed for Province of Parma Headquarters 2010). The proposal includes a number of green building strategies, most obviously a living exoskeleton meant to provide shade and natural ventilation for the real building underneath.
Similarly while living in cities has a much smaller environmental footprint than living in rural and suburban areas, doing so often results in having green spaces. The Spiral Tower, designed by Philipp von Bock, is a family friendly eco tower designed for Berlin to overcome the lack of green space that often accompanies city living (Meinhold, Spiraling Eco Tower Provides Suburban-Style Living in the City 2010). Apartments are stacked in opposite directions in a criss-cross pattern, leaving open spaces for garden terraces (Meinhold, Spiraling Eco Tower Provides Suburban-Style Living in the City 2010).
Similarly the Idea House, "an eco house prototype that reinterprets the socio, cultural and environmental intricacies of the traditional Kampong house embraces environmental technologies in its attempts to become the first carbon zero residence in South East Asia (Green Modular Design of Idea House by Broadway Malyan 2009).
The first intriguing aspect of the Idea house is that it would be made of prefabricated modules both to reduce labor costs, but also to make deconstruction of the home easy at the end of the home's useful life, so the materials could be reused in another project (instead of being merely 'waste') a heavy nod to McDonough's argument that waste is a flaw in human design. Similarly the installation of gray water reuse systems - gray water is water that though unsuitable for direct consumption such as through drinking, cooking, or bathing, is, with minimal processing, suitable for a number of other purposes -- helps reduce the water consumption of the house (Dicum 2007). The green roof garden with rainwater capture system for irrigation provides multiple benefits including reducing building energy use, decreasing storm water runoff, mitigating urban heat island effect in cities, and improving air (Doug, et al. 2005). Green roofs also extend the life of the roof, also serving to reduce consumption.
Another quite visible aspect of this green building is the rooftop photovoltaic system to provide power to the entire house. Currently, most electrical systems are centralized systems powered by either coal or natural gas, in addition to being extremely harmful to the environment these systems lose a lot of energy to the inefficiencies of carrying electricity over long distance transmission lines. Solar panels provide clean energy that doesn't generate greenhouse gases. In addition, because the energy production is localized less energy needs to be produced to meet household needs because little energy is being lost to the inefficiency of transmission.
Sustainability in design is not just a question of high technology, but also of low. Optimal site orientation is a critical component of sustainable design. As the National Institute of Building Sciences Whole Building Design Guide points out, building location affects its sustainability directly because where buildings are 'facing' and consequently how much sun exposure a building gets (or doesn't get), whether there are protective barriers in high wind locations, trees etc. directly affects a buildings energy consumption, as well as indirectly (WBDG Sustainable Committee 2009). The energy consumed by transportation needs of occupants for commuting, the impact on local ecosystems (draining a wetland for example, to build a 'green community' is likely not sustainable), and the use/reuse of existing structures and infrastructures also affect a building's sustainability.
We already know that the path which we are on as a society is unsustainable. The question, then becomes what does a sustainable society look like? What vision do we hold of a sustainable society? As I have illustrated in the previous pages design is an integral component towards imagining an fashioning our sustainable future. As McDonough states it far more eloquently than I: "In the midst of a great deal of talk about reducing the human ecological footprint, we offer a different vision. What if humans designed products and systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture, and productivity? That are so intelligent and safe, our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament?" (Braungart and McDonough 2002)
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- Studio Dosi Building Proposal (Meinhold 2010)
(Green Modular Design of Idea House by Broadway Malyan 2009)
This T-shirt is packaged in biodegradable corn starch bags, 720 tons of plastic yearly, by folding them one additional time they are able to reduce packaging by 45%. (Alter, Yves Behar and…