What are your biggest questions?

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  • In formulating the FAQ for the book, we’re trying to anticipate what the most common questions designers will have about this topic and how specific to get. Lou, in his infinite wisdom, suggested we crowdsource the questions and he’s absolutely right. So, here are some suggested questions but we’re most interested in what your questions are:

    • What is sustainability?
    • Why does being sustainable cost more than not?
    • Is Climate Change proven?
    • What’s a carbon footprint?
    • Why is carbon so bad?
    • Are hybrids really better than other cars?
    • Is nuclear power a more sustainable energy option?
    • What can I do to become more sustainable?
    • As a designer, what can I do to make the world more sustainable?

    4 Responses to “What are your biggest questions?”

    1. Feixing Tuang

      I am really looking forward to this book!
      My question is ..

      If designers could do a heuristics evaluation to assess the sustainability aspects of the design, how would the list of heuristics look like?


    2. Hey Nathan, I got to see your presentation on sustainable design at the Overlap this year and loved it. The one suggestion I would have as you’re writing the book is that you take a bit of time to map out the evolution of the term “sustainability” from Bruntland (or whatever starting point you choose) onwards. I think getting a single definition of sustainability is going to be hard, but questioning and exploring the evolution of the term may provide some good context for understanding what it means to today’s designer.


    3. Anonymous

      What are we going to do with all of the left over batteries, which would be significant in a future sustainable product.


    4. Thanks for asking. Your topic/outline/questions all indicate to me how important it is to get to designers and also how very, very long way they need to come and how much of the real real world that they must appreciate and live in.

      I started doing the FAQ response but decided to comment instead. Glad to see localization as a chapter – to me, being LOCAL is the book and it is sustainability. Taking responsibility for our local area and actions and acitions we cause in others via design is what we’ve lost and to what we must return.

      It is above all “local thinking” – which includes but goes beyond local energy, local resources, local jobs, local habitat, local food, local products, local trade, local community, local transport, local cooperation, local sharing, cooperation, cooperatives, families, kin, etc.

      The list is endless because it represents a mind-set, way of thinking, a culture that we have lost – largely through design (road systems, malls, global transport, year-round availability, mass merchadising, nuclear families, garages facing street/sidewalk instead of sitting porches, cars instead of walking, TV instead of talking, buyoing instead of making/growing/coking/trading/giving)

      I’d add the word “relocalization” to the text to get the point across that we can re-create local, we used to have it, we must re-design and re-localize as well as new designs from this day forward.

      Transport does not seem to get the large coverage it needs in the TOC. This is what decides local or global, locally made or WTO – we have been designing for the auto, petro, global, large corp, mass market, media for 50 or more years. This has assumed that we had unlimited energy, were not polluting, and that mass produced was better, cheaper, more fair.

      Re-use is a vital term but over-used and tattered – it must get its fair due. What’s important is that waste, or output, equals food or input to something else. Nature is the model here – the producers produce it, the primary/secondary consumers consume it, and the decomposers decompose it – all of it and all of its waste products. We must drive toward zero waste/pollution and this needs to be an ethic, not a product by product re-use or recycle

      Designers must broaden their horizons. A big one for me is that Architects design buildings, often assuming that the site prep/grading/drainage/siting is all done/given and that the landscape will be cleared for construction and re-planted after building. The designer/developer must consider the whole site as the project, not the buildings. Making the site better regarding water quality/quantity, air, soil, biomass/food, habitat, energy, being a good ecological neighbor/citizen – are some of the elements. We have buildings/sites today that are aiming for zero net energy – great. We need future designs/sites that aim for zero net waste,….then zero net, or plus, water,…for cleaner water exiting than entering, for zerpo or net-plus impact on habitat/species, and for zero-net food….and zero net or positive net impact on neighbors/the watershead/community. A very good strat on this is the draft SSI Guidlines by the USGBC and Landsacpe Designers Assoc. – they are available on the web.

      Bill McDonough in Cradle to Cradle mentions designing like a tree – cleans/stores water, provides food/ shelter/resources, cleans/heats/cools/humidifies the air, makes soil, protects the ground, provides habitat/beauty/value. I’d agree and request that the analogy be expanded to design like a forest or a prairie – self-tending, diverse, multi-faceted/multi-use/multi-generational, sustainable, net-zero energy (except sunlight), net zero resources, net zero waste, net-zero or plus food, 3-dimensional, community building, giving, caring…….


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