Growth is good when in accordance
with natures own time-tested blueprint.
Use the following learning objectives
to focus your study while reading this month’s ARCHITECTURAL
RECORD / AIA Continuing Education article.
After reading this article, you
will be able to:
1. Define regenerative design
2. Explain why sustainable design
is not enough.
3. Discuss biophilic architecture
4. Discuss biomimicrys
effect on building design
We’ve come a long way from the sealed-window, fluorescent-lit,
energy-guzzling buildings of the mid-20th century. With the
help of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system
and other green guidelines, more and more architects are meeting
stringent environmental criteria. “Architects are getting
good at the ‘technofix,’ ” says Bill Browning, Hon. AIA, a
principal at Rocky Mountain Institute. They are becoming adept
at applying technologies that deplete fewer precious resources,
generate less toxicity, and threaten fewer habitats. In an
industry that claims about 40 percent of the energy, 40 percent
of the virgin minerals, and 25 percent of the virgin wood
consumed worldwide per year, what else could we ask for?
To be built in Wisconsin's
"tornado alley," the underground Kaufmann House by Eugene
Tsui will have parabolic openingsto maximize light penetration.
Photo: © Eugene Tsui
Much more, it turns out. Up until now, sustainable design
has been essentially an effort to minimize damage so that
we can at least maintain what we still have. A worthy objective,
considering the ever-mounting environmental degradation we
are witnessing, but is this all we can aspire to? “It would
be a pretty sorry state of affairs,” says architect Bill McDonough,
FAIA, principal of William McDonough + Partners in Charlottesville,
Virginia, “if, when asked how are things between you and your
spouse, you answer ‘sustainable.’ ” Like a good marriage,
good design should be uplifting and fertile.
Nature—whose designs are inherently efficient, effective,
and beautiful—offers us models of abundant, healthy production.
In their new book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make
Things (North Point Press, 2002), McDonough and his coauthor,
chemist Michael Braungart, illustrate this with a cherry tree:
Its fruit becomes food for animals and insects; its bounty
of lovely leaves degrades naturally into the earth. Nothing
is wasted; nothing is toxic. In terms of nature, growth is
in fact good. So why can’t the same be said about the growth
of human settlement?
It can, say those on the green frontier, if we can learn
from nature. According to Gil Friend, president and C.E.O.
of Natural Logic, “Nature’s ecosystems have spent 3.85 billion
years building efficient, complex, adaptive, resilient systems.
Why should we reinvent the wheel, when the R&D has already
been done?” Increasingly, architects are collaborating with
chemists, biologists, ecologists, and psychologists to learn
Mother Nature’s secrets and apply them to our own mortal designs.
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