2007 According to Lloyd Alter: Ethical Design


Happy new year everybody! 2007 is here, and the eclectic team that brings you TreeHugger took a moment to think about the past year and the coming one. This collective brainstorming was a little like good free-jazz; a bit all over the place, not many rules to follow, but very interesting. The only guidelines: Write about things that you are passionate about, what you thought was significant in 2006 and what you want for 2007. It can be about local anecdotes or global trends, idealist or realist in tone, whatever. Just share your thoughts!

Here is the first one. The whole series can be found here. We'll keep posting 3 per day until we run out.

Without further ado, Lloyd Alter:Lloyd Alter, Toronto, Canada

When I read Wired Magazine's January feature the Wired Home: "Green Architecture is now sleek, sharp, and nearly invisible. And more energy efficient than ever" I knew that Green Architecture was just so over. That hanging participle about energy efficiency was some editor's add-on to hook Wired's core base of techies, but the fact is that energy efficiency is now a given; green design will closely follow as the standard. If designers are not thinking about LEED and green standards they will soon be out of work; The world has changed.

In 2007, the major issue will be ethical design. After writing the words I googled the phrase and found an article by Susan S. Szenasy, the brilliant editor of Metropolis, who appears to be the first to have defined it in this context. She quotes a Parsons design student: "Sustainability is not my issue," and then goes on to explain why it is everybody's issue.

Ethical design means that I can ooh and ahh over Leo Marmol's house near Palm Springs, and he can even call it green if he wants to, but ultimately he has to drive to it from Los Angeles, and its footprint, albeit smaller than it would have been in the hands of a less talented and concerned architect, is not small. Ethical Design means we have to weigh all of its footprints; the materials, the manufacturing, the land use, the water supply, the transportation, the size.

Ethical design means that a development like Vauban, where people cooperate to develop a car-free, socially mixed community that looks at every aspect of how we live and what we consume, is the model. Splendid isolation in our new green energy-efficient home in the country is no longer good enough.

Ethical design means building no more than we need, building it really well, and building it in communities instead of isolation.

Ethical design means fixing our cities and towns, and bringing people back into them. We already know that cities are efficient; read Adam Gopnik's Through the Children's Gate and learn how cities are the best place to raise a family.

In 2007, green or energy efficient won't cut it. Ethical design means that you have to take it all into account and look at our carbon footprint, our water footprint, our waste footprint. Buildings can no longer be looked at in isolation; we now have to look at all of the threads of carbon tying it to the rest of the planet.