Future Ecology Designed

Sustainable design theory manifested in products, infrastructure, and graphic representation. A utopian glimpse of a future New Zealand where environmental considerations are of tantamount importance, and society is designed to accommodate the native ecosystem.

In Reply

My greatest fear is if, as you say, sustainablility becomes a throwaway word. I mentioned earlier I don't particularly like the term, as to sustain doesn't particularly imply improvement per se, rather the ability to continue in a mode of life indefinitely. I want to see vast areas of lowland broadleaf-conifer native forest reclaimed, not what little we have left simply protected.

Another worry is the corporate idea that the current levels of consumption/production can be continued if they are made more 'sustainable'- Treehugger is full of examples of products which may very well be low-impact to operate, but still exist to fulfill a marketing niche which is not especially important. I don't really have faith in the idea that rapid economic growth and ecological sustainability can both be retained concurrently.

'Business can be a vehicle for change. Prosperity can help us build the kind of world we want. Scientific exploration, innovative design, and cultural evolution are the most powerful tools we have. Entrepreneurial zeal and market forces, guided by sustainable policies, can propel the world into a bright green future.'

- Business will only ever be guided by the most effective contemporary means to maximise profit margins. A bright green future will only exist where it can visibly improve market value. I am extremely cynical of the idea that 'Business can be a vehicle for change'. It is business that markets us products we don't need, manufactured via methods the earth can not support, and that constantly requires these products to be replaced through planned obsolescence so profitable production may continue.

'Today you can drive a Toyota Prius that burns far less gasoline than a conventional car. Tomorrow we might see vehicles that consume no fossil fuels and emit no greenhouse gases. Combine cars like that with smarter urban growth and we're well on our way to sustainable transportation.'

- Except that the total energy expenditure in manufacture is greater than that of conventional vehicles, the total expected life of the battery is 8 years, and when this time is up the car is vastly less environmentally sound when it is retired, due to the quantities of noxious heavy metals within the battery. Future cars may not emit greenhouse gases directly, but manufacturing needs to be completely reviewed, and the entire life cycle fully considered. And marketing personal vehicles with a built-in obsolescence of 8 years, while profitable, is ecologically reprehensible.

I don't see a solution to the current quagmire, without 'Asking people in the world's wealthiest, most advanced societies to turn their backs (so to speak) on the very forces that drove such abundance'.

I don't understand how you can publish a website named 'Worldchanging' but refuse to try. I am not being naive, I know this is borderline impossible- People need to fully understand the social and ecological implications of where this 'abundance' came from, but they will refuse to confront the answers. The USA consumes resources at a rate that would take 5 earths to support if the world population followed suit. I don't see how you can continue to consume products at the current rate while scaling back the associated resources by 500%.

'Quality is wealth. More is not better. Better is better. You don't need a bigger house; you need a different floor plan. You don't need more stuff; you need stuff you'll actually use.'

-This is spot on. Sorry for the depressing post, my 16 year old eco-Marxist self is talking to my conscience....

Vis the scooter, I am really happy the concept has been proven. However, my own particular take on such a concept has changed enough since last year that I don't feel too bad about the similarity.

Edit: This article was written by the same person, but is a marvellous call to arms. It is strange how different the tone is, it could almost be defined as 'Asking people in the world's wealthiest, most advanced societies to turn their backs on the very forces that drove such abundance'.

Green is the new black

The green swell really is starting to pick up momentum. ( Green revolution : Wired ) With 'world day' a few days ago, and the word 'sustainable' set to be the next El-nino, word of 06. Its quite nice to see but at the same time I am slighlty sceptical that it can simply become just another fad and eventually turn into pseudo-green; The old crap with nice new shiney, eco-green packaging. And a fair point "As we create a more sustainable civilization, we need people to actually understand the systems which make that civilization possible" (thats were we come in..)

But nice to see it hitting mainstream conciousnous, and before you know it treehugger will be a compliment.

And doesn't this look rather familiar? 'A tiny, three-wheeled car that could help solve city congestion'
It has a top speed of 100 km/h (60mph) and uses a novel tilting chassis to make it safe and manoeuvrable.
Another one of those, "man, I thought of that last year" things. But like we talked about, its kinda nice to know that your thoughts are on the right track and see your ideas getting a kind of stamp of approval.

edit: Some more images

Via Worldchanging

Guadalajara library

This is a fantastic idea: taking existing structures which are under-utilised but built to very high tolerances, and re-establishing them in a new role. There is a vague similarity to my nesting idea too.


Elements of Interaction – Part 2

In this post I am going to attempt to outline and summarise my current thoughts and intentions.
This is going to be somewhat a work in progress open to changes and edits as I progress my way through it.

As it might have come to light over the my (sparse) contribution-history, I seem to be revolving around the following key ideas:

Interactions – Interfaces between Inhabitants < > Inhabitants & Environments < > Inhabitants
Systems & their relationship to each other.
User driven environments (in contrast to environment driven users)

I plan to use your previous post on Elements of interactions as a base to build on.

Energy & Structure

Energy Input
Energy output
+ Current states & Projected performance


Physical interactions/material logistics
+ Organic, flexible networking


Sustenance and health
+ Recycling & rejuvenation
+ Dynamic element – diversity pool

The following paragraph is an attempt to introduce some of my back theory. It is really more of a personal endeavor to try and clarify some thoughts. So read at your own risk.

Phase[ ]space
The phase space in a scientific/mathematical sense, is used as a theoretical 'space' where all states & variables of a system are represented and defined. Basically it maps the various states of a system onto a 'space' with multiple dimensions, which can include time for example. (It does get rather complex but this is my understanding of it.)

I am looking at applying this notion of phase[ ]space to social (dynamic) system, using it more as a metaphorical representation. The phase[ ]space would including the physical sub>urb/city/environment and its inhabitants, and the virtual, interactive spaces and networks between them.
I do not see the phase[ ]space as one finite, all enclosing system. It is very much fractal, with a phase[ ]space containing further phase[ ]spaces, and vica versa.
An example of how this works, a house can be considered a phase[ ]space with all its variables and elements. This is contained in the phase[ ]space of a community, which in further is enclosed in the phase[ ]space of a city.

So we basically have a simple concept of a 'cell' system forming a larger body. Whats the point of a phase[ ]space?

The phase[ ]space provides a construct in which the different variables of the space and their states can be mapped and understood, much like its scientific application. This should give an understanding of the elements involved and influencing the space.
Out of this can be interpreted the 'state' of the space and its level of complexity. i.e. Its phase. It is important that complexity here is not understood as how complicated, big or chaotic it is, but rather as its level of organisation. > Link – Complexity theory , Negentropy.

The key to a phase[ ]space is the interaction between the elements contained. Once the space is 'self aware' and know its own state it can begin to take itself to a new, higher level or organisation, or phase.
Hence a phase[ ]space that has the ability to know its current state and influence it, has the potential to self organise itself to a new, more complex phase. These phase}{transitions can occur independently at all levels of the fractal system, once at the level of the house/home, or the community/city as a whole.

The interactions of phase[ ]space and it Negentopic(?) transitions to higher levels of organisation.

  • Feedback loops as a an integral part to user participation.
  • Inhabitants and their relationship to the environment – The role of interfaces
  • Setting up a systems to allow potential self organisation.

“ The city can be seen as the place designed to offer the widest facilities for significant conversation...one key to urban development should be plain: it lies in the widening of the circle of those participating in it, till in the end all men will take part in the conversation.”
- Lewis Mumford, 'The City in History'

“Most of (current) solutions tend to isolate the means from the mission. This 'mission' calls for a commitment by societies everywhere to unite in a common cause and connect to the natural environment on a more profound philosophical, psychological and cultural level. Otherwise, the basic incentives for survival may be defeated by a diversionary proliferation of remedial mechanisms that do not address the deeper social conflicts caused by a collective state of denial.”
- James Wines, 'Green Architecture'

“All the sacrifices that have helped bring the city into existence come to nothing if the life the city makes possible is not its own reward....a glimpse of beauty, a flash of joy, a quickening and sharing fellowship.”
- Aristotle.


Some quick updates from various weblogs.

The new Bank of America Building by Cook + Fox attains the highest LEED acreditation possible, making it the most sustainable sky scraper ever built. I think it must be one of the most beautiful too. All rainwater and waste water is captured and reused, while most material will come from recycled and renewable sources within 500 miles of the construction site.

This is a truly beautiful article. Could natural acoustics play a part in our urban environment?