Our discussions at Collaborative Design Group constantly circle around the genuine goal of what it means to be ‘common sense green’ as we plan a new community village for Gold Hill Mesa and discuss rebuilding Mountain Shadows. Sustainable-design is now such an integral part of our thinking and relies naturally on designing real places -– buildings, neighborhoods or cities -– by choosing materials and systems that do ‘less harm’ to us and our land. While “reduce, reuse, recycle” starts to minimize what we consume from our planet, we are creating spaces where we live, work, and play that are still consuming. It is not only our time to think past the less bad and move toward the more good but also understand ‘what’ we should create so we can genuinely care for it for many generations.
Genuine green design creates places that are not just neutral or less bad in what they take, but actually add back to our world in energy and beauty. Consider the simplest example: a home that receives all the energy it consumes from solar panels or a geo-exchange unit would be applauded for its energy neutrality. But if that same home added energy back to the neighborhood’s power grid from those solar panels, had a green roof planted with air-cleaning native plants that improved air and water quality, and partitioned a part of the yard (or roof) for a vegetable garden that contributed to the local food bank, we would have a single home that adds to the greater community. Now if that same home is also slightly more compact, better insulated, easy to maintain and is designed to use more of the earth’s free energy to run at less cost, the community is on a trajectory towards natural self-reliance.
By applying the house example to public and community buildings, the neighborhood incorporates natural systems for teaching and developing local energy and ecosystems. Regeneration is build-in and assured as a basic part of the design of our place. You can imagine the market position of developing places and spaces that do not just reduce energy and cost but actually create energy and community good. New revenue could be created from buildings that otherwise would be only costing the client and our city. This would result in more robust financial performance, expansion of the company, and greater job and sensible growth.
The future planning for such genuine green places (see Steve Mouzon’s book “The Original Green”) will include a wide range of professionals including economists, biologists, landscape architects, social-science experts’ geographers and energy planners. Our Collaborative Design Group is working on an extensive cross-training in disciplines to both envision a beautiful design solution and still quantify the value on a ‘great green’ life-cycle cost spectrum. In the end, all designers, engineers, energy specialists, and community advocates will all need to speak the same, common-sense language to achieve a sensible, beautiful and uniquely ‘genuine’ green place to call home.