inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #51 of 83: David Adam Edelstein (davadam) Thu 24 Apr 08 15:07
Yep, the long posts are great.

Related a bit to the question of which comes first, the consumer or
the producer, I'm also interested in the problem of designers wanting
to do green work but not having the opportunities.

It seems like in a lot of cases the designers working on the project
could simply design it as green as possible, no?  Obviously it's not
quite that simple, but maybe it's almost that simple.  

When I was still doing a lot of freelance print design I regularly
specced soy inks and high recycled content paper and simply presented
that to the client as the costs of doing the jobs.  My experience was
that most clients, if I asked them whether they were willing to spend
an extra 10% on those things, would say no, but would never say
anything if I simply included that in the overall bid for the job.
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #52 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Fri 25 Apr 08 13:06
OK thanks for feedback on length..

David, this is an interesting question -- why don't they just do it? I
like the logic,  it's sort of like the idea on fair trade--it should
be the norm.  

But I think it may vary according to scale and complexity. For some
aspects of buildings or products your approach might work, but if an
architect comes up with a scheme for a naturally ventilated building
that has no mechanical HVAC system, the client is going to notice and
in many cases, be worried that it may not actually work (despite an
increasing number of successful built examples). Similarly, there
aren't enough designers who know how to make such a building work.

I think the same would be true of a product designer proposing a
relatively new and untried green material, or a product service system
scheme. In those large scale and/or complex projects the costs tend to
be higher and the risks to the designer and the client perceived as

Perhaps a more relevant comparison would be if you, as a print
designer, were to say to your clients, "actually, you don't need to
print anything to accomplish your objective, use digital media instead
and here's how I think it could work." This throws the client (perhaps)
into unknown or unexpected territory and even if it could save them
money, the time it takes them to "get their heads round it" (as we say
over here) is perceived as more costly. 

Having said that, I do sense that more designers are trying to adopt a
"sustainable" status quo and the Designer's Accord
(, sorry if I mentioned it before) is a sign of
that (whereby designers sign up and commit to always promoting the
green option with clients).
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #53 of 83: Anne Boyd (nitpicker) Fri 25 Apr 08 13:48
david, that approach would be tough in my field, where every line item
in the construction cost estimate gets rigorously scrutinized after
(as seems inevitable these days) the cost estimate comes in over the
budget.  everyone on the design team gets called on the carpet and
asked to justify every decision and come up with cheaper options
wherever possible. The unpleasant term of art for this process is
"value engineering," and it can have really unfortunate outcomes.  

way back up there somewhere, bumbaugh asked:

>>But, whereas in building, "green" = "efficient" kinda sorta, for
land use, the green benefits are more likely to be externalities. In
which case, the "it's in your interests" persuasion won't fly.
Is that right? If so, how does LEED for Landscape get traction? If
not, wise me up.

I'll tell you exactly where it gets traction: in the city council
chamber, or, to put it another way, at the point where the stormwater
runoff from your property encounters the public street and/or storm

when we have those lovely "value engineering" sessions, you don't have
to justify decisions that are required by code.  similarly, a lot of
people I talk to about the various LEEDs talk about how really the
ultimate goal is to make sustainability part of the building code.  

as it stands now, I think a lot of the traction for LEED comes from
the public sector and from institutional clients.  here in the weird
political geography of Los Angeles, some of the smaller cities with
more progressive attitudes toward sustainability, like West Hollywood
and Santa Monica, were the first to aggressively pursue green building
requirements, and the lumbering megalopolis of Los Angeles is following
along, having just voted on Earth Day to require LEED for projects
above 50,000 sf.  West Hollywood's green building standards, on the
other hand, apply to *every* project in the city that isn't a single
family home.

one of my teachers said that "constraints and opportunities are two
sides of the same coin."  you can view sustainability, as Ann said
previously that some high-design architecture schools seem to be
teaching, as something that just serves to "inhibit design."  similarly
I think a lot of designers think of accessibility the same way, and we
see the result in the built environment - accessibility can be handled
beautifully and integrated into the overall design, or it can be done
really half-assedly and reluctantly.

I personally feel that the responsibility of designers is not just to
dutifully meet the requirements that are imposed on us by a certain
regulatory environment, but to embrace the "opportunity" side of those
seeming constraints...even to actively advocate for their being
imposed.  "Green" measures can seem repressive and constrictive, or
they can seem beautiful as well as beneficial.  designers are the ones
who need to show those images; the city council can't come up with them
on their own.  and we need to be *in* the city council chamber when
those decisions are being made.

I'm a little less sure of how all the above might apply to product
design, but I think there is a connection.  Do we just wait for the
government to get around to outright banning something that seems to be
toxic, (I'm thinking here of all the recent publicity around bisphenol
A) or do we get busy presenting alternative material solutions that
may have multiple benefits besides just being, you know, less toxic?
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #54 of 83: Anne Boyd (nitpicker) Fri 25 Apr 08 13:54
ann's reply slipped in while I was composing mine.

the example of the alternative ventilation system is a good one,
because I can immediately see, not just the obstacles to knowing how to
design one that works, but the obstacles in getting it through the
Building & Safety department for the building permit.  Some of you may
know that the whole "prefab revolution" in architecture has run into
some serious snags with local building codes; you can say the same of a
lot of sustainability measures.  which, I guess, just further
reinforces the argument for designers being involved in the political
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #55 of 83: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Sat 26 Apr 08 09:18
I really like Ann's analogy of a print designer telling someone to not
print stuff and to go online instead.  I think it's that class of
problem, you have to actually convince someone to significantly change
how they do business.

This morning I was thinking about what would happen if I were a
product designer at a firm or in-house and I decided to address the
issue of sustainability directly, not just as an "it would be nice" or
"only if it's convenient".

I'm not sure how I would go about doing it without quitting, to be
honest, especially if I was at a firm with a lot of corporate clients
or if I were at a style/brand concious firm like Nike or Harley

Let's say I'm at IDEO or Frog or Lunar, and a client comes in saying,
"You know, we spent a lot of money developing this new disposable
cleaning rag, but we're just not selling enough of them.  Can you help
us figure out a way to sell more disposable cleaning rags?"  If I get
assigned to this project, I have to figure out how to help someone
sell more disposable things for which there might be a really good
non-disposable solution.  In fact, the better thing to do for the
environment might be to stop selling disposable cleaning rags and
start selling reusable cleaning rags that can be washed in the
laundry. (I have in my mind Swiffits vs. micro-fiber cleaning rags, a
change we're making in our household.)

What do I do?  Go to my boss and ask to be assigned to a different
project?  Come up with a pitch for them to stop selling disposable
rags, and possibly license microfiber from a competitor?
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #56 of 83: Anne Boyd (nitpicker) Sat 26 Apr 08 12:24
    <scribbled by nitpicker>
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #57 of 83: Anne Boyd (nitpicker) Sat 26 Apr 08 12:28
well, you could pitch them as compostable cleaning rags, which is in
fact exactly what the Method people did with the Omop.  

The Omop is what I have.  Now, if I as an urban apartment dweller only
had facilities for composting, we might really be getting somewhere. 
Yes, there are such things as municipal composting programs - but not
in my city.  not yet.

(In my former apartment, I actually maintained an indoor worm bin, and
was quite happy to have someplace to put my vegetable scraps & coffee
filters, even a certain amount of shredded junk mail, not to mention
the inherent fun of raising worms.  But then, what I didn't have was an
actual productive use to which to put the finished compost.  Upcycling
doesn't count unless you have someplace to upcycle to...)

We all face that "put ourselves out of a job" problem.  Architects
don't get hired to design a building and then tell the client they
oughtn't put a building there in the first place.  The only place I've
seen statements like that being made is in the context of a design
competition, where someone wants to use the competition to issue a
manifesto of some kind rather than necessarily getting the job.

But I don't think that's often the way design competitions are used in
this country, at least not the architectural and landscape
architectural ones.  It's *expensive* to participate in competitions,
and I know my own firm doesn't throw that kind of overhead around

But design competitions do occupy kind of an interesting space in the
public discourse about design, such as it is.  Take for instance the
competition to design the Vietnam Memorial, or the one to design the
Fresh Kills landfill park in New York.
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #58 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Sat 26 Apr 08 15:06
Yes, David’s post, in addition to highlighting the issues of scale,
has definitely brought up the issue of incremental versus radical.
David is talking about the quick-gain-right-now incremental approach,
whereas as Anne and Jet seem to be hoping for radical systemic rethink.
This is the “pace of change” debate. 

My thought is that all the people who are in a position to get a quick
gain right now should do it. At the same time all the people that have
the means to explore/pioneer/push for more radical rethink should be
doing that. These two approaches don’t necessarily have to be at odds,
and one could even argue that the quick gain serves as a warm up for
radical action. Even though a lot of quick gains have the feeling of
“efficiency” or “being less bad”, one typically has to slow down before
changing directions.

Anne’s comments on architecture are interesting and revealing,
especially the notion that the idea behind LEED is to get building
codes changed. This is a great example of using the economy for
sustainable design. The US Green Bldg Council is a nonprofit
organization and of course, this is typical in an area where the market
isn’t acting on a “good cause” (green building) and the public sector
isn’t acting on the cause. 

And LEED started out very market oriented – it was all about
“market-based tools” to drive sustainable building. But of course, it
being a good cause, the biggest uptake has been the public and
nonprofit sectors. And within the public sector, as Anne says, public
agencies are requiring LEED standards—typically this starts with any
new public buildings having to meet a certain LEED standard. 

So now, whether the USGBC originally planned it this way or not, LEED
is changing building codes. It’s an interesting model since LEED works
by committee (volunteer, I believe) and they work out the rating
systems and then take input, pilot, revise etc. So its not unlike what
might have happened had public agencies been in the lead, except that I
suspect the public process would have been more weakened than USGBC
operations are by corporate campaign finance influences, political
power plays etc.

Could other nonprofit groups set similar standards and then offer them
up for adoption by governments? We see hints of this on the product
side, but so far it seems relegated to government purchasing policy (eg
we’ll only buy green/fair/clean product X – California has done this
with low VOC paint). It also shows up how building/architecture, rooted
as it is in “place” differs fundamentally from products that are
mobile and global, and much more difficult to influence other than
through whether you buy them or not.

For products there are a lot of rating systems out there--probably too
many at the moment, so it's not clear that they'll be able to
accomplish something parallel to what LEED is doing (Russell Fortmeyer
looked at a range product certifications for Architectural Record here:
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #59 of 83: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Sat 26 Apr 08 16:20
I can think of a couple of LEED-like things in consumer electronics:
RoHS (no-lead), Green certification, and the attempts to regulate
"stand-by power consumption".
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #60 of 83: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Sun 27 Apr 08 11:17
Oh, and speaking of "what would you do?"

Howard Meehan gave a talk at the western IDSA conference yesterday,
and discussed his move from product design to designing public art.
It was based, in part, on his revelation that "four million units
sold" had become "four million pieces of landfill".
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #61 of 83: Jamais Cascio (cascio) Sun 27 Apr 08 11:42
My experience from the non-design (but design-aware) green consulting side
of things is that, increasingly, corporate actors clamor for regulation as a
way of leveling the playing field. Most want to do the right thing -- build
in the right way, make the sustainable product, etc. -- but believe that
competitors with no such desire would beat them if they tried. Regulation
making everyone do the right thing would allow them to win, conversely,
because they often have already drawn up the designs for the sustainable
version, just haven't brought it to market.

While LEED and codes for buildings are fine, I'm more interested in seeing
the proliferation of neighborhood and community-level sustainable design.
LEED-ND is a first pass at a neighborhood design standard; ZEDStandards from
the BedZED group brings a UK perspective.
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #62 of 83: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Sun 27 Apr 08 14:02
Ann, in the sectuion on "culture", you spend a bit of time talking
about contemporary, non-design movements like "open source" and "slow
food".   What's the response been like, especially given the corporate
vs. individual issues they raise and the tendency for designers to be
in the corporate business? 
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #63 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Mon 28 Apr 08 14:09
In response to Jamais, I agree that many times companies want
regulation to level the playing field, and in the US it’s sometimes
been driven by inconsistencies at the state level (eg stricter
standards, often in California, for energy efficiency of appliances or
what have you, paved the way for stricter standards nation wide).
Appliance manufacturers didn’t want strict standards, but they wanted
consistent standards and California’s won out.

You suggest that companies feel their competitors will beat
them—they’ll lose out on profits-- if they go green. This contradicts a
great deal of what one finds in the press, particularly the green
building press (or books such as Natural Capitalism) about how
profitable really smart green building can be. There are enough
individual, successful examples out there, that saved money, improved
productivity, boosted morale etc. but none has led to a “rushing in” of
Obviously there are many reasons for this, but it makes me less
sanguine about the notion that most companies want to do the right
thing. I think many individual people want to do the right thing, but
it is at the company level that this good intention gets sidetracked. 

I guess, Jamais if you are a green consultant, then perhaps you deal
largely with a self selecting group of companies who are more genuinely
interested in doing the right thing? – companies where the individual
intention is either embodied at the top of the company (eg the Ray
Anderson, Yvonne Chouinard model) or tolerated by those in power
(probably how Nike’s “green” work started out). 

What I hear from practicing architects and designers over here is that
not only do designers/design companies not have a “green version” in
the wings, they are scared of being asked to produce one because many
wouldn’t know how. They use consultants to meet the letter of the
rating sysem (eg the UK’s BREEAM counterpart to LEED) as cheaply as
possible, thereby completely avoiding the spirit of the system. They
comply with regulation but only after they’ve lobbied against it and

Even sophisticated green designers I know struggle to find the best
approaches, which suggest to me that if loss of profits is an issue to
the companies you mention, the investment necessary for a valid green
version is unlikely to have been made just for “standby” – but am I
wrong about this?? I can imagine companies doing some general R&D on
possibilities, but to take a product prototype to manufacturing design
and economic modeling just seems unlikely and the devil is in these
details. I realize you're probably not at liberty to give examples
here, but they sure would be interesting!

The other issue that bugs me, I guess, is the question for these
profit-loving companies of  how much is enough. Lately we’ve had these
huge profit reports, many in the energy industry over here. And I
think, gee, if they had wanted to do the right thing and it had cost
them even a billion more, they still would have had several billion in
profits. This is where the systemic forces at work in corporations and
the economy mess up individual good intentions. 

Similar complaints have been made of companies who "do the right
thing" by sponsoring campaigns on AIDS, Environment or other good cause
-- they spend several million marketing a campaign that raises several
hundred thousand from the targets. Why not just donate several million
directly to the cause?

More on neighborhood/community level as this is also an area I’m
really interested in and sanguine about…
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #64 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Mon 28 Apr 08 14:15
In response to Jet’s question –what’s been the response to notions of
slow design or “open source” influenced design—when I visited the US
Northwest the notion of slow design was pretty unfamiliar, but people
were very interested. They wondered whether it meant you would get more
time to prepare a bid or complete construction drawings, which is, on
the one hand a misunderstanding of the philosophy but on the other,
also a possible outcome, I suppose.  So I perceive that the slow design
movement is a bit more evolved in Europe.

Although slow design and “open” design on the face of it seem to be
quite opposite, what they have in common is participation. To a certain
extent I think we could also argue that they share the notion of
“information” being a public good, rather than proprietary. I say this
because the participatory element makes tight proprietary strictures
pretty difficult.

Putting these specific terms aside, I’m seeing a general increase in
the interest in participatory design, democratic design, co-design and
other such efforts. Are others also seeing that? There are a few of my
colleagues over here doing practice-based projects in slow design, but
to my knowledge none of these had private sector clients. The clients
were public agencies (ie schools) or nonprofit groups (the Design
Council’s work on co-design for Healthcare). 

But my look at the “open design” scene suggests that companies are
jumping on some aspects of  “open” philosophy to the extent they can
capture a marketing/sales benefit out of it. A common form is the
“user-based community” that companies set up for their product(s). The
idea is that users will treat these communities as social networking
sites, but the company will harvest useful data out of them. I guess
many people worry that this is what will happen to all social
networking sites, so maybe there is not as much distance between the
company and “sharing/open” communities anyway.

I think there is potential there for design to use these open models,
but I haven't seen a particularly good model for how to do it. There
was a good article on Core77 a while back
( that highlighted some
of the practical matters well, and Bruce Sterling presents an
interesting picture in his book "Shaping Things" although its pretty
abstract from a physical design perspective. 

What is your response to these ideas? You sound sort of skeptical.
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #65 of 83: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Mon 28 Apr 08 15:22
I'm skeptical in that if there's not short-term profit in it, I don't
see corporations taking it seriously.  It could also be that I'm
overly cynical, but my job experience in the software industry leads
me to believe that corporations aren't in it for the common good.

Also, what was said earlier about the need for regulation to create a
level playing field certainly exists in other business domains.  Here
in Pittsburgh there's a battle to ban smoking in bars and restaurants
-- I've talked to two owners who want to go smoke free but are afraid
they'll lose all their business.  I can imagine a similar case in
something like the mobile phone market -- until they're all forced to
make recyclable phones, recycle them for free, or support an open
standard where users could make/customize their own phones, none of
them will take the profit hit.

Looking at it from your "fast vs. slow" perspective, there is a case
to be made for simply buying locally/regionally whenever possible and
cutting out the bigger corporations entirely.  I'm needing a new
courier bag (my current one is poorly dimensioned for my current
laptop) and it turns out for only a little more than a made-in-China
name brand courier bag I can get a bag designed and made in

So maybe corporations can't change, but consumers can change their
decision making processes and at least create a new market for
local/slow business?   Does the question become how to get the
designers out of the corporations and design firms and on the ground
with the people they're actually designing for?
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #66 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Mon 28 Apr 08 15:43
Yes I think so!
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #67 of 83: Anne Boyd (nitpicker) Mon 28 Apr 08 17:56
I've recently become obsessed with 'windowshopping' on, which
seems to have grown into an online phenomenon fairly recently.  

there's nothing in itself radically new about using the internet to
buy and sell handmade items, but seems to have hit on a
winning combination of a really clean interface (I'm one of those who
quickly loses patience with ebay/myspace-style visual clutter) and a
lot of flexible search tools.  the site just gets the hell out of your
way and lets you find stuff.  it's really remarkable to me how diverse
the offerings are and how much creativity is being showcased.  

there are a lot of ingenious alternatives for mainstream consumer
goods that, i confess, never even *occurred* to me until I started
browsing around the DIY/handcrafting online spaces. (jet, you could get
a custom bag made to your exact specifications from any number of
sources at a place like that...)  people are buying and selling
patterns and instructions as well as finished goods - or they sell the
opportunity to have custom item made for you.  someone there is selling
"CSA" (community supported agriculture) shares in the harvest of
merino wool from their sheep (the site is an active trading post for
supplies as well as finished goods)  and this was considered innovative
enough to make the Wall Street Journal earlier this month:

inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #68 of 83: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Mon 28 Apr 08 18:00
Wow, CSA over etsy.  That's pretty cool.   CSA is huge here in
Pittsburgh, surprisingly enough.

I got my bag from ReLoad because they are suppliers of bags to
hardcore couriers.  My bag-design skills aren't good enough to judge
bags via photos, but if it's the company that makes bags for hardcore
types, that's good enough for me.
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #69 of 83: Gail Williams (gail) Tue 29 Apr 08 11:14 is a very intelligently conceived site...  how interesting to
combine with CSA!
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #70 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Tue 29 Apr 08 14:34
[As a coincidental side note, BBC Radio 4 reported this morning that
BP has posted more than £3 Billion in profits in the latest QUARTER,
and Shell has posted more than £4 Billion—not bad for 3 months]

I also like the Etsy site and was glad to find out about it. It does
point the way toward connecting designers directly with users. I like
the idea that the user can “commission” their own design. 

If we bump this up to more of a community or neighborhood scale (eg
“we want to start a community garden and move our community ‘off” of
supermarkets,” or “we want a car sharing scheme”) and then add some of
the thinking behind several other sites:
- a matching site for those with small amounts of money
to lend (eg loan as little as $50) and those seeking to raise
relatively small investment (eg $10,000-20,000)—but imagine this method
also used by grant-making nonprofits organizations and public agencies
- you promise to do something, if X number of people
in your community will also sign up to do it by a certain date
- a group that organizes spontaneous “duels” of creative
professionals – in a sense they create "events" or "major incidents" by
conscious choice to engage people and bring them together, ostensibly
for witnessing the duel, but invariably the events are catalysts for
other projects.

Then I think we start to see some interesting pathways toward more
sustainable neighborhoods and a connecting point for designers. Hmmm,
this is giving me some interesting ideas!

I had a look at the two sites Jamais mentioned to see what USGBC and
Zed are up to. I’ve read a fair amount about BedZed and I’ve seen a lot
of those BedZed-based reports, but I hadn't seen the Zedstandards. I
think both LEED ND and zedstandards are useful and solidly address the
built infrastructure. 

But in my mind the built infrastructure and its issues need to be
connected to the social infrastructure to generate real neighborhood
level sustainability. Social and constructed (including products)
should in a sense harness each other. And I don’t see that happening so
much with these standards. 

Although it is possible these neighborhood building standards could
somehow trigger changes in the social infrastructure, it doesn’t seem
built in to them and maybe is simple beyond their scope.
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #71 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Tue 29 Apr 08 15:14
Offline Jet and I talked about spending the last day or two of this
discussion on strategy – how designers can make use of different parts
of the conceptual framework presented in the book—perhaps through
thought experiments. Also how different design disciplines might find
more or less resonance with the conceptual framework in the book. 

I think we have gotten some good perspectives on different design
disciplines, and with this last bit of discussion we are moving into
“though experiment” mode on how the various concepts can come together
in specific applications. 

For example this neighborhood sustainability idea combines using the
economy strategically, but also calling forth community-generated
meaning through mechanisms such as pledgebank or lvhrd, and of course
using digital connectedness (the “open” idea) to support it. The Etsy
site begins to suggest a way in for designers who might then match
themselves to communities’ initiatives, perhaps through ad hoc
collaboratives for particular projects (anyone heard that term

There was a bit of discussion about slow design earlier, and combined
with the notions of “conservation” that were bandied about earlier—the
issue of ecosystem cycles being resilient, but not without destruction
here and there—I wonder if this is grounds for another thought
experiment. Do we need to slow down quickly? How does design facilitate
“flow” or the “reskilling” of people (I talk about this around about
page 145 in the book). 

One thing that springs to my mind in this area, partly prompted by the
Etsy example where people are selling patterns and shares, is the idea
of sharing our making skills. For example, I’ve heard that there are
all kinds of “how to” videos on Youtube that teach you how to knit and
demonstrate simple as well as advanced stitches. Probably there are
also how-tos on many other subjects. In a cross between selling a craft
pattern (for a backyard shed), for example, and an investment club or
book club, I can sort of imagine a “reskill club” that hooks into
design practitioners—either locally or remotely.

On the topic of resilience, Worldchanging ran a feature on a Swedish
conference called Resilience, Adaptation, and Turbulent Times.Monfreda
says,  “To a certain extent, this conference marks a new stage in
resilience science—the study of dynamic social-ecological systems—as it
expands from academics into policy.” And I wonder, how will this area
expand into design? Does it have to do with skills and flow, or with
nature as culture (eg ecological literacy)
(Some of the participants there (eg Buzz Hollings) were my sources for
my book). 

We haven't touched upon professional design associations -- although
Jet mentioned IDSA. What do people perceive as their role or potential
in moving all this forward. Can you see them moving away from a
business focus and advocating that designers use the economy

Sorry, I know I'm not supposed to be asking the questions!!
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #72 of 83: I dare you to make less sense! (jet) Tue 29 Apr 08 15:36
Ask away!
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #73 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Tue 29 Apr 08 15:53
OK, thanks...forgot to mention that I talk about professional design
associations in the book around page 186
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #74 of 83: Anne Boyd (nitpicker) Tue 29 Apr 08 16:59
since LEED-ND has been mentioned, I should say that I'm only passingly
familiar with it, but it did get discussed on one project that I
worked on, that didn't move past initial master planning phases.   I
don't think these guidelines ignore the need to create more sociable
communities - far from it, a huge part of the reason you want to create
walkable mixed use communities is to decrease the social isolation of
the car-bound lifestyle.  

but it is also worth pointing out that we very rarely get the
opportuntiy to master plan new communities in a fully built-out
metropolis like the one where I live.  We are working more with
incrementalism/infill in our existing built environment - and when we
ARE building new communities that aren't infill, they're way out on the
edges somewhere, which is not exactly helping to combat sprawl.  (not
to mention the issues of urban/wildland interface, which in coastal
Southern california brings with it the extra added drama of being
extremely flammable.)

some really thoughtful stuff about designing the built environment for
sustainability, longevity, and conviviality can be found in the "Ten
Shades of Green" by Peter Buchanan:

I particularly like the concepts of "Long Life, Loose Fit" and "Access
and Urban Context" as being relevant to the current discussion.
inkwell.vue.325 : Ann Thorpe: The Designer's Atlas of Sustainability
permalink #75 of 83: Ann Thorpe (ann-thorpe) Wed 30 Apr 08 02:00
I was also struck by the fact that LEED ND related to relatively large
scale new developments -- and had many of the same thoughts abouts its
relevance to existing cities (no doubt it does have some, though). 

And yes, walkable communities do create the potential for the
development of social capital, but I guess my point is from a design
perspective we don't need to stop there. We can actually look beyond
these traditional mechanisms (if you can now call a LEED rating system
a "traditional" mechanism) and complement them with some new
approaches. The new approaches, however, do take designers into new
territory--not only in terms of the medium, who the clients are and how
you work with them, but also how you use the economy as a tool toward

The "shades of green" piece is quite similar to the AIA's COTE measure
for sustainable design (PDF here)
which also includes, "Collective Wisdom and Feedback Loops." 


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