Building a more environmentally stable future clearly requires some vision of it. If fossil fuels are not to be used for power, then what? If forests are no longer to be cleared to grow food, then how is a larger population to be fed? If a throwaway culture leads inevitably to pollution and resource depletion, how can material needs be satisfied? In other words, if the present path is so obviously unsound, what picture of the future can be used to move toward a global community that can endure?

The concept of sustainable design has come to the forefront in the last 20 years. It is a concept that recognizes that human civilization is an integral part of the natural world and that nature must be preserved and perpetuated if the human community itself is to survive. Sustainable design articulates this idea through developments that exemplify the principles of conservation and encourage the application of those principles in our daily lives.

A corollary concept, and one that supports sustainable design, is that of bioregionalism – the idea that all life is established and maintained on a functional community basis and that all of these distinctive communities (bioregions) have mutually supporting life systems that are generally self-sustaining. The concept of sustainable design holds that future technologies must function primarily within bioregional patterns and scales. They must maintain biological diversity and environmental integrity, contribute to the health of air, water, and soils, incorporate design and construction that reflect bioregional conditions, and reduce the impacts of human use.

Sustainable design, sustainable development, design with nature, environmentally sensitive design, holistic resource management – regardless of what it’s called, “sustainability,” the capability of natural and cultural systems being continued over time, is key.

Sustainability does not require a loss in the quality of life, but does require a change in mind-set, a change in values toward less consumptive lifestyles. These changes must embrace global interdependence, environmental stewardship, social responsibility, and economic viability.

Sustainable design must use an alternative approach to traditional design that incorporates these changes in mind-set. The new design approach must recognize the impacts of every design choice on the natural and cultural resources of the local, regional, and global environments.

A model of the new design principles necessary for sustainability is exemplified by the “Hannover Principles” or “Bill of Rights for the Planet,” developed by William McDonough Architects for EXPO 2000 to be held in Hannover, Germany.

  1. Insist on the right of humanity and nature to co-exist in a healthy, supportive, diverse, and sustainable condition.
  2. Recognize Interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend on the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand design considerations to recognizing even distant effects.
  3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement including community, dwelling, industry, and trade in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.
  4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems, and their right to co-exist.
  5. Create safe objects to long-term value. Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance or vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless creations of products, processes, or standards.
  6. Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life-cycle of products and processes, to approach the state of natural systems in which there is no waste.
  7. Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their creative forces from perpetual solar income. Incorporate this energy efficiently and safely for responsible use.
  8. Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
  9. Seek constant improvements by sharing knowledge. Encourage direct and open communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers, and users to link long-term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and reestablish the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity.

These principles were adopted by the World Congress of the International Union of Architects (UIA) in June 1993 at the American Institute of Architect’s (AIA) Expo 93 in Chicago. Further, the AIA and UIA signed a “Declaration of Interdependence for a Sustainable Future.” In summary, the declaration states that today’s society is degrading its environment and that the AIA, UIA, and their members are committed to:

  • Placing environmental and social sustainability at the core of practices and professional responsibilities
  • Developing and continually improving practices, procedures, procedures, products, services, and standards for sustainable design
  • Educating the building industry, clients, and the general public about the importance of sustainable design
  • Working to change policies, regulations, and standards in government and business so that sustainable design will become the fully supported standard practice
  • Bringing the existing built environment up to sustainable design standards

In addition, the Interprofessional Council on Environmental Design (ICED), a coalition of architectural, landscape architectural, and engineering organizations, developed a vision statement in an attempt to foster a team approach to sustainable design. ICED states: The ethics, education and practices of our professions will be directed

Green building techniques focus on more than just the building and its immediate surroundings. The process also involves siting buildings, whenever possible, near public transportation hubs and other amenities, such as shopping areas, medical centers, and recreational facilities. Sites that are pedestrian-friendly encourage walking and bicycling, which reduces the need for automobiles. Siting buildings within the existing infrastructure helps discourage urban sprawl and save energy and money.

Green building can also help preserves historical and cultural aspects of the community. Designs are not imposing but, rather, blend into the natural feeling and aesthetics of a community.


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