“Ecodesign,” Ken Yeang

Goal of seamless and benign integration of design into the biosphere must be the fundamental basis for the design of human made environments

Why biointegration is necessary
Health as humans depends on the health of the environment

Humans are responsible for 99 percent of pollution

Modern industrial modes are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, but fossil fuels are finite. “Inevitably, ecological considerations have to become an integral part of the practice of the design of all of our artifacts, structures and infrastructures.”

“Ecogadget architecture”: an illusory vision of technological salvation.

Environmental integration

A2 Objective of ecodesign
Human purposes meshed with larger flows, patterns, processes

Integrate: source to production to operation to demolition and eventual assimilation into the ecosystem and biospheric processes

Goal is not to simply ameliorate the present rate of environmental impairment but to eliminate it.

Integrate systemically all industrial waste into natural cycles and processes of ecosystems. Then there is no such thing as waste.

Can we integrate temporally (ration and conserve) our rate of energy use with the availability and the natural rates of resource renewal in the biosphere?

Three separate levels of biointegration:
1 Physical
2 Systemic
3 Temporal

Sustainable design, defined: “designing to ensure a society that is able to satisfy its needs without diminishing the chances of future generations”

Oil as a non-renewable energy resource will not last for another FIFTY YEARS.

Impacts in the life-cycle of a design system: manufacture, transportation, construction, eventual reuse, recycle, reintegration.


restore environmental conditions that existed before mass industrial corruption

A3 The basis for ecodesign; the ecodesign concept
The whole earth can be considered an ecological unit, and within it is a system of biological organization.

All ecosystems are open systems, not closed. All connected by flows of energy and materials.

Comprehensive ecological knowledge will “enable the designer to prescribe design solutions based on ecological principles and to design on the basis of the strategy of ecomimesis.”

Ecosystem: Other interpretations include regarding the ecosystem as an energy-processing system the components of which have evolved together for a long period of time as communities of plants and animals, fungi and other organisms, with different degrees and kinds of interdependence among the component species, or simply as a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit.

Green belt, or autotrophic layer
Brown belt, or heterotrophic layer.

Structural Components
Inorganic substances
organic substances
Climatic system
Producer organisms, or autotrophic
Consumer organisms, or phagotrophic
Decomposer organisms, or saprotrophic

Energy flow.
The food chains on trophic relationships.
Diversity patterns, spatial and temporal.
Mineral, cycling of nutrients aside from food.
Development and evolution.
Control on cybernetic aspects.

The main reason for the limited length of food chains is that a major part of the energy stored within the plant or animal is lost at each stage in the chain.

Plants are the primary source of food and energy in any ecosystem.

It is the ecosystem’s components (organisms, populations, species, habitats, etc.) processes (nutrient cycling, carbon cycles, ecological succession, etc.) and properties (resilience, health, integrity, etc,) that provide us with a life-supporting environment.

temporal integration: essentially the prudent utilisation of non-renewable and renewable resources at rates less than the natural rate at which they regenerate

process of succession (p. 18)

Indicator species: organism (often a micro-organism or a plant) that serves as a measure of environmental conditions (or ecosystem health) that exist in a given locale

Keystone species: affect ecosystems through such processes as competition, mutualism, dispersal, pollination, and by modifying habitats and abiotic factors. Keystone species usually govern biological diversityin their given habitat.

Edaphic factors: soil nutrients, temperature, moisture level

Natural services provided by ecosystems
Primary productivity: photosynthesis, oxygen production, the removal of CO2 from the air and its fixation into plant materials
Biological control of pests and diseases
Habitat and refuge protection
Water supply, regulation (ie flood control) and purification
Waste recycling and pollution control (by decomposers)
Nutrient cycling
Raw materials production
Soil formation and protection
Ecosystem disturbance regulation
Climate and atmospheric regulation

A4 Ecomimicry
To design based on the principles of natures designs and technologies are superior to our own. Imitate properties, structure, functions and processes of ecosystems in nature.

Principles of ecology to mimic: networks, cycles, solar energy, partnership, diversity, dynamic balance.

In natural systems there is no such thing as waste. Everything is re-assimilated and reintegrated into the ecosystems. Waste is food.

In contrast, 85 percent of the human-made items in our built environment quickly become waste through the manufacturing process.

Slow the throughput of materials in our built environment – design for longevity.

Design for reuse, recycling and remanufacture at the outset.

Species in nature will not utilise their prey species, on food plants, until there is nothing left. Often this is because food becomes more difficult to find as it becomes scarce and animals consequently hunt that which is in greater supply, leaving the old stock to renew itself.

use renewable resources only at the rate at which they can renew themselves
it is obviously not possible for humans to wait for fossil fuels to renew themselves

Ecosystems run entirely on ambient solar energy: free, abundant, infinitely renewable. Nature stores this energy as fossil fuels. Humans use fossil fuels, which, being non-renewable, have a high entropic rate.

1 Ultimately, ecodesign should direct the built to shift to an economy run on current solar energy as in ecosystems.

2 Until this is achievable, ecodesign should be directed towards energy conservation and efficiency where it optimises every unit of energy efficiently out of these non-renewable fuels in all our designed systems.

High structural diversity and spacial efficiency

Ecological diversity is comprised of three main types of diversity
1 Species diversity
2 Genetic diversity
3 Diversity among communities and ecosystems

Ecological design must also be about designing for planned positive and restorative outcomes that will contribute beneficially to the ecosystems. These positive outcomes can include, for instance, improving biodiversity, the creation of pure water, the conservation of local landscapes and ecology, the reduction of consumption of energy resources and greenhouse gas emissions, the reduction of waste and pollution (eg greenhouse gases) and the reduction of the design’s ecological footprint.

Recap of key properties of ecosystems pp 37-38

The theoretical basis for ecological design must provide the designer with an easy-to-apply set of structuring and organising principles. Design to plug-in to human behavior vs. improving people’s behavior with design.

This can be in the form of an open structure with which the selected and relevant design constraints [e.g. ecological considerations can be holistically and simultaneously organised and identified. Furthermore, the open structure must facilitate the selection. Consideration. and eventual incorporation of the design objectives in our subsequent design synthesis.
Program? To strict? Colin Rowe. Does this leave room for innovation? (p. 41)

The theoretical framework of green design
The designed system acts like a living organism; in place of food, it uses energy and materials, and also produces outputs into its environment. Our theoretical structure should therefore model all these exchanges.
Framework must include
1 Description of the built system itself
2 Description of the environment
3 Mapping of the interactions between these two components

Fundamental interactions between built and natural environments can be categorized as follows:
1 External interdependencies: the designed system’s relationship to the external environment
2 Internal interdependencies
3 Internal to external exchanges of energy and matter
4 external to internal exchanges of energy and matter

Matrix provides a check on environmental impact assessments – helps to reduce likelihood that the designer emphasises the importance of a single factor (e.g. pollution) at the expense of another

Ambiguity of article / matrix / program a result of the field as highly adaptive, need for growth; leaves room for growth, reinterpretation

Importance of balance. Framework actually useful? Or way of visualizing need for balance.

Response to concern:
“Yet, while the Partitioned Matrix is a comprehensive framework, it is not programmatic. That is to say, it includes all possible issues but not, for obvious reasons, particular situations and cases. lt can act as the ‘law for ecological design’, but it is the individual designer who has to apply that law. All that can be predicted here is the type of design issue likely to be faced particularly in the area of ecosystem interactions and effects.”

Matrix excludes:
1 Cost
2 Government / political pressures
3 Cultural Mores / resistance
4 Limits of technology


Chesapeake Bay Game Prelim

1 List the variables and concepts that you think are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed system
Seasonal variability in weather, temperature

Local wildlife and migratory events

Tidal current, strength of tide

Local industry, effluent

Traffic patterns, flows

Pedestrian flows

Civic activity, waterfront recreation

Size and number of tributaries

Permeability of nearby and adjacent grounds

Farming, types of farming, proximity of factory farms



Crabbing, shrimping

Federal, state, and local clean-up efforts, degrees of environmental activism
2 Describe the relationship and interaction between these variable. Be specific. State the nature and direction of each influence
Season influences:

1 The level of fishing. This, in turn, affects the number of boats in the water, the number of trucks at the dock, the number of visitors at the fish market and the number of consumers buying fish.

2 Migratory patterns, which determines the number of birds in the bay, which affects the number of fish and avian waste in the water and perhaps the number of visitors to the bay.

3 Weather, which influences the number of visitors to the bay. The warmer the weather, the more visitors to the bay. The more visitors, the more commercial activity. The more commercial activity, the more pollution.

4 Farming, which affects the amount of fertilizer and pesticide in the soil which affects the toxicity of tributary flows.

Government regulations influence:

1 Clean air and water laws, which determines the locality and volume of industry, which influences factory run-off, which in turn affects the mercury content of fish, which may alter the demand for Chesapeake Bay fish

2  Taxes, which affect the level of tourism, which influences the civilian activity near the bay, which factors largely into production of waste

Government subsidies influence:

1 The degree and type of agriculture and farming (see above)

2 Funding for clean-up efforts, which influences the cleanliness of the bay and the health of its wild inhabitants

Instructor: John Quale  /  TA: Justin Hershberger

Class Notes: SSB Lecture 4, Sep. 2, 2010. “Tragedy of the Commons”

Off-site vs. On-site
Each contractor has to transport themselves to the construction site. Materials must be transported to the site. When you work off-site you don’t start the construction process until all materials are on-site. The various scopes of work can then be done quickly and efficiently.

Can, in 4 days, get 85% of construction work done. Then, two to four weeks on site. As opposed to four to eight months driving to and from a construction site.

When talking about system, often cite less waste. “Systems built.” Prefabrication has a negative connotation.

Systems dynamic models
There are clouds building in from the East. That normally doesn’t happen. The westerlies that run around mid-latitude are the normal pattern.

Dynamics systems models get really complex.
The bay game has about 50,000 equations that take in various factors and interact.
This sets the stage for emergent, non-linear behavior.

Why systems work
Diversity: Need for biodiversity, system can adapt and regenerate, heal
Adaptability: Has the capacity to change. Not fixed or locked into singular mode
Redundancy: Valuable if/when one part of system collapses

New York: Small footprint, but lack of resiliency (?)
Self-Organization / Emergence
Multiple Agents: No leader
Simple Rules
Connectivity: capacity to share ideas
Parametric Modeling: Setting up conditions that allow connectivity

Self-similar structure: fractals, fractal geometry

Bottom Up Organization: Difference between top down controlled organization and bottom up organization re: health. Completely bottom up? Chaos, inability to set goals, lack of order. Complexity vs. complicated. But if you allow subsystems to work, local organizations that can interact with each other through dense networks, you can develop a very robust and healthy system. There needs to be a set of rules that allows this balance of welfare freedom and responsibility.
Semi-Autonomous sub-systems
Balance of welfare, freedom and responsibilities within system

Policy resistance – multiple forces pulling in opposite directions – escalating response
Seek grounds for common agreement
Tragedy of the commons
How do you change that? All three “solutions” have consequences
Educate: Some education is easy to change through education, some is much more difficult if it means giving up health, wealth, etc.
Privatize: With regulation is stereotypical left/right divide. How do you privatize the services that an eco-system provides?
Regulate: Often least attractive, subject to tremendous manipulation.
Drift to low performance
Manage expectations
External references
Break reinforcing loop
Build balancing loops
Competitive exclusion
Diversification – develop alternative paths
Impose limits on control (antitrust)
level playing field
Addiction – shifting burden to intervening structure
Long term restructuring
Rule beating
Redesign rules so that rule beating reinforces desired outcome
Seeking the wrong goal
Evaluate what real object is

Climate Change Comes Home?

At the five year anniversary of Katrina’s devastation, another storm – Earl – grows stronger as it approaches the mid-Atlantic coast. The storm’s 145 mile-an-hour winds have prompted evacuations in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. It remains unclear if and when the core of the storm will reach the coastline. (Via NPR. Also, the NYT, mostly re: surfing).

SSB Lecture, Aug. 31, 2010

Sites, Systems and Buildings, Bill Sherman

Seasons / Sun
Key is tilt of the axis of the earth relative to its rotation
Changes angle of incidence of the sun, alters intensity of sun’s rays
Solar intensity of polar regions is far less than at the equator
Charlottesville’s latitude: 38
In the summertime, sun is going to be 47.5 degrees higher than in wintertime
Summer: 76.5
Winter: 29
Stereographic projection: in plan.
Summer night phenomenon sun never sets


Meadows, Thinking in Systems
Growing understanding of the way the world works that has not infiltrated institutions, the way we make decisions and do things. But it will happen.

Understand the behavior of the world as a complex organism; not predictable.
Can begin to build models that start to predict scenarios. Very small changes in input can cause significant changes in outcome.

When we start looking at the world through the lens of systems behavior we are thinking of the world very differently than with “linear” methods.

Emergence: explains complex patterns and behavior (i.e. how school’s of fish, flocks of bird operate as a unit)
Order traditionally top-down. But no hierarchy, no conductor, no leader. Organization comes from the bottom up, following their own set of rules. Follow the other guy, don’t get too close, don’t get too far.

Only way to really begin to understand how actions lead to consequences that make a difference we must think of nature and structure of system and recognize its inherent complexity.

Weather: self organizing systems take uplift of warm, moist air, redistribute.
Cities: High degree of resilience built in. Start to see cities break down and die when complexity, networks break down
Stock market: Have been watching systems go out of control and crash. Cycle out of scope of control.
Life: Whether emergence gets at questions of how evolution works, how first forms of life evolved

Thinking in Systems, Key Concepts
Function or purpose: If there is no reason for that system, many have to do with self-preservation, it does not qualify as a system

Self-organization: Capacity for self-organization
Resilience: When system is pushed it has capacity to react to that disturbance and maintain itself
Non-linearity: There is not necessarily a one-to-one response, cause and effect in a system

Stock flow: inflow and outflow.
inflow –> stock –> outflow

Thinking about system like a bathtub: drain in, drain out.
One critical piece of equation: often pieces built in the system called feedback loops. Simplest one is your bank account. Have an interest rate that is being returned and coming back. Introduces idea of non-linearity.

Two feedback loops: some are stabilizing, some are not. I.e., keep drinking coffee to stabilize energy level. Eventually will not work, need complement to coffee.

Systems diagrams (try not to think in nouns)
Maintaining personal hygiene –
Sleeping – anxiety, fatigue
Creative process
Doing laundry
Body temperature regulation
Owning a vehicle – economic framework
Student population

[AZIMUTH: the direction of a celestial object from the observer, expressed as the angular distance from the north or south point of the horizon to the point at which a vertical circle passing through the object intersects the horizon. In plan, orientation to North, South, East, West.]

Sun-Energy Diagram