Sustainability

Women in Green: Simran Sethi

Sethi challenges her audiences to listen to people who are not like you and then tell your stories in a way that they can hear.

I’ve written about Simran Sethi here before. She’s an inspiring, energetic green diva—a strategist, educator, and journalist. She’s had a worldwide career, yet somehow she landed in Lawrence, my hometown in Kansas, and taught for some time at the University of Kansas School of Journalism (my alma mater). Sethi has been doing some big thinking about the problems we have…

Techno-Systems Are not Ecosystems

Since the 1990’s, the term ecosystem and/or ecology have been used to refer to the complexity of how people, businesses, and technologies interact.  I’ve always found this metaphor misplaced; it clouds the fact that systems of commerce and resources are not ecosystems at all.  They are something different all together.  According to biologists, an ecosystem is built from a community…

Ecomimicry: What Designers Can Learn From Evolutionary Science

As building green becomes more common, we must aspire to harmonize with nature and explore evolutionary science—ecomimicry is the end of that exploration.

We all know the story of Charles Darwin. He took a tour of the Galápagos Island, conceived his brilliant idea about evolution, spent the next few decades working out the details, nearly got swiped by a young startup, raced to finalize his book on the topic, and in 1859 published On the Origin of Species, forever changing our understanding of…

Q&A: Lance Hosey on Sustainability and China

We talk to Lance Hosey about his new job as chief sustainability officer at RTK, the future of sustainable architecture, and China.

A couple of weeks ago we received news that Lance Hosey, a former director with William McDonough + Partners and author of a new book, The Shape of Green: Aesthetics, Ecology, and Design (Island Press), had been named chief sustainability officer at RTKL, the global architecture, planning, and design firm. We wondered: what is a chief sustainability officer? So we…

What If Half of America Moved Each Winter?

As the U.S. population becomes increasingly mobile and the need for dramatic energy policy intensifies, we must think beyond the limits of states.

When you compare those states that consume the most energy with those that consume the least, something jumps out at you. The states topping the list in terms of BTU per year are also the most populated states in the country: CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA and OH. This pattern holds true at the other end of the spectrum;…

Tech and Sustainability Meet Up at Greenbuild

The “classic” Silicon Valley stretches from Palo Alto to south of San Jose, CA, about 20 miles south of San Francisco. Bay Area locals are mighty excited about Greenbuild coming to San Francisco in November.  The conference theme, “@ Greenbuild,” references the mindboggling array of Internet and technology companies headquartered in our backyards. You know Google, Yahoo, Twitter (co-founder, Biz…

A Tale of Two Maps: Putting Ecology (& Sustainability) First

To achieve a sustainable world, we must stop building along politically defined limits and start designing in line with ecologically determined borders.

If you want to peer into the future of architecture and infrastructure, try comparing the impact of two vastly different maps of the same place. For this post, I am using a map of the United States; but you could use just about any map of any country on the planet. Map of the United States Looking at this map,…

A Taste of the Bay Area’s Green Architecture

A USGBC-sponsored tour highlighted the best forward-looking buildings to be found in and around San Francisco.

Boucher Grygier Shipping Container House, Innovation and Transition tour Courtesy Jan Grygier From giant redwoods to adaptive reuse, San Francisco is chock full of memorable sights – green buildings and beyond. At USGBC’s annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, held in San Francisco this November, you can sample from two dozen tours of buildings (and much more), specially curated by San Fran…

Ultimate Oxymoron

Hotels are now worse for the planet than ever before. Recently built properties use twice as much energy per night as hotels built
50 years ago. Even so-called “green hotels” are often merely less-bad alternatives. Is hotel design inherently unsustainable?

The Responsibility of Discarding Materials Belongs to Everyone

A recent panel discussion explored the necessity of thinking holistically about the life cycles of the materials we regularly throw away.

Rose Tourje, in a screenshot from the short documentary “ANEW: doing what’s right with what’s left.” In the inaugural post of our series on social sustainability, we featured John Peterson of Public Architecture, who had participated in a panel discussion titled “Sustainability Without Borders” at this year’s NeoCon. In this follow-up, we’ll focus on the two other participants in that…

Q&A: Laurie Kerr, Deputy Director of Energy for the City of New York

Laurie Kerr discusses a first of its kind report on the energy and water use of larger buildings in New York City.

Earlier this month the folks in Mayor Bloomberg’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability released a first of its kind report on the energy and water use of larger buildings in New York City.  The benchmarking report is the result of Local Law 84, which was enacted in 2009 as part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan. The legislation requires…

The Prescience of Richard Neutra’s Theory of “Biorealism”

The architect's writings on the topic—of human survival, in general—seem more than a little relevant half a century later.

Illustration: “Nature Near” Joseph G. Brin © 2012 Talk about biophilia, biomimicry, or biodiversity and another “bio” comes to mind—that of late architect Richard Neutra. He himself coined the term “biorealism” to connote “the inherent and inseparable relationship between man and nature.” Neutra, who was famous nearly all his life, passed away in 1970. His time has come again. We now…

Disney Green

Want to influence the next generation? Grab ’em young like cereal producers and others who advertise to children do. Reference point theory posits that our first exposure to a product or experience imprints and becomes the comparison reference for all things similar. Disney is leading the charge to ban junk food. It is embracing green. Debuted on Earth Day, the…

Tulane, Perkins+Will Join Forces to Research “Healthcare Villages”

While a fairly new typology in the US, these "villages" will likely become more prevalent in the future.

As a professional in my late 20s I reached a point when architecture school was no longer a recent memory, so I began to seek ways to build closer ties with my alma mater, Tulane University.  While I look forward to financially supporting my university one day, I haven’t been out of school long enough to be able to contribute in…

Q&A: Susan Chin on Urban Farms

Susan Chin, executive director of the Design Trust for Public Space, on the non-profit's study "Five Borough Farm: Seeding the Future of Urban Agriculture in New York."

In New York City, where more than 8 million of us live in very close proximity to hundreds of our immediate neighbors, many of us are also near some form of urban agriculture. Today there are ten times more urban farms in Gotham than in San Francisco and Seattle. And urban farming is growing in every one of our five…

Why I Studied Sustainable Real Estate Development

Tulane University's MSRED is a one-year professional graduate degree program that cultivates practical skills in business, economics, community planning, and environmental design.

In the winter of 2010, I moved back home to my small hometown on the coast of Washington State, having just spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Chuprene, a tiny village in Bulgaria. While there I had been mostly insulated from the realities of the recession in the U.S., so I was shocked to return to a…

The Other Social Network

Sustainability is, by now, a well-embedded and highly visible part of public discourse. Buildings that breathe and cities that live are less science fiction than just plain science, and people are becoming more and more conscious of the impact their actions have on increasingly stressed ecosystems. But even with shifting mindsets and a host of technologies making it ever easier…