Designing Our Collective Future
As our infrastructure ages and we look to re-build, and as new economies build new infrastructure, humanity is presented with a tremendous opportunity in how and what we create. How will we align ourselves with the natural processes of Earth? Will we continue to extract, consume and pollute? Or is there another way, a way of living in harmony with, and to the benefit of, the entire earth community?
Although we may not hold the keys to the kingdom personally, we as a design community do hold some sway over the vision of our collective future. If we can imagine a future where humanity is a positive influence on the Earth, we can design-in the details to make this future our reality.
Each of us in our own capacity, at every opportunity, must present design alternatives that are sustainable, benefit and engage the local community and promote the natural processes of the earth. First and always, we should be concerned with clean air, clean water, and clean energy. What can you do today to promote these within your current projects?
Clean energy produced locally is both possible and necessary for the health of the earth community. Global warming is our responsibility, not our destiny. Is there an area of your project dedicated to producing clean energy on-site? Can your project cultivate clean energy adoption in the community by providing access to vehicle charging stations? What systems and materials are available to reduce the operating energy requirements of your project? Are you leveraging the natural processes of wind and sun to reduce the need for mechanics and emissions?
We must also change the way we think about, value, and manage our water. What can we design-in to our projects to reduce, capture, and re-use water on-site? There is an abundance of new technology for conservation and efficiency waiting to be adopted. You can also design-in the details for community education and participation in water conservation. From signs in restrooms to placards on water-conserving vegetation, engage the community in the effort and value that your project provides.
Look closely at the impact of your project on the local community. Can your project help to solve any local issues? Involve the community in assessing needs and imagine ways to address them that fit within the project’s goals and capabilities. What can you include for those without a voice? Can you provide or connect areas of natural habitat? Can you include plants that provide food and habitat for wildlife? Trees that provide fruit for the local community? Or public spaces to bring people and the natural environment together? Are there ways to maximize and share use of the project with the community?
We should also maximize the use of sustainable materials from local sources. Look closely. Do the research. The materials and technologies available are astounding. From spray-on solar film to pervious concrete, others are working tirelessly to create the innovations that will change the world. The biggest hurdle for these innovations is to be found and designed-in.
Longevity is a part of sustainability and can be a byproduct of engagement of the beneficiaries. Who will build, finance, and maintain your project? Use local labor, local investment, and local materials whenever possible. Engage the community as beneficiaries and you increase longevity. And did you design-in the ability to perform long term maintenance and renewal? Are you delivering this information to the owners and future operators? Have you designed-in a future for this great work?
And what of justice? Does your project provide for some at the expense of others? Solve one problem but create another? Diminish resources or enhance the earth? Not that we can individually control all outcomes, but are we at least aware? And are we always looking to design-in a positive outcome?
Together we must use all of our creative energy to tackle the challenges ahead, and adopt a vision of all that could be possible if there were no limits on our abilities. Be inspired. Be creative. Imagine your project benefiting its users, benefiting the community, and nurturing the earth. Your design could be our future.
“The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.”
– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Michelle Self, P.E., is the President of CAD Masters Inc, an Autodesk Gold Partner. CAD Masters has been providing technical expertise to private engineering firms and public agencies since 1994.
CAD Masters, Inc.1111 Civic Drive
Walnut Creek , CA, 94596
Share and Enjoy: