What is Ecological Design?

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

From Wikipedia: Ecological design is defined by Sim Van der Ryn and Stuart Cowan as “any form of design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes.” Ecological design is an integrative ecologically responsible design discipline.

The inchoate developing nature of ecological design was referred to the “adding in “of environmental factor to the design process, but later it was focused on the details of eco-design practice such as product system or individual product or industry as a whole.[2] By including life cycle models through energy and materials flow, ecological design was related to the new interdisciplinary subject of industrial ecology. Industrial ecology meant a conceptual tool emulating models derived from natural ecosystem and a frame work for conceptualizing environmental and technical issues.

Ecodesign concepts currently have a great influence on many aspects of design; the impact of global warming (or Climate Change) and an increase in CO₂ emissions have led companies to consider a more environmentally conscious approach to their design thinking and process. In building design and construction, designers are taking on the concept of Ecodesign throughout the design process, from the choice of materials to the type of energy that is being consumed and the disposal of waste.

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

Living organisms exist in various systems of balanced symbiotic relationships. The ecological movement of the late twentieth-century is based on understanding that disruptions in these relationships has led to serious breakdown of natural ecosystems.

Ecodesign is a growing responsibility and understanding of our ecological footprint on the planet. Green awareness, overpopulation, industrialization and an increased environmental population have led to the questioning of consumer values. It is imperative to search for new building solutions that are environmentally friendly and lead to a reduction in the consumption of materials and energy.

3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

Architectural Medicine has an important focus on the natural environment as well as the built environment, and as stated above, the symbiotic relationship between these two cannot be separated. In term of human health and wellness, this should also include the other organisms and living beings on this planet as there is an innate interconnection that defines the health of all biology.

Therefore, it is critical to evaluate the approaches of Ecodesign as well as Healthy Design, in order to achieve these whole system goals of wellness. When viewing the built environment as a complete system, it’s basically impossible to ignore all of these other facets in the nataural and built environments.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

While Sim Van der Ryn is often known as a leading member of the Ecodesign movement, there are many others who have contributed and continue to design and create solutions to achieve these Ecodesign goals.

From Wikipedia: 1971 Ian McHarg, in his book “Design with Nature”, popularized a system of analyzing the layers of a site in order to compile a complete understanding of the qualitative attributes of a place. In 1978 Bill Mollison and David Holmgren coined the phrase Permaculture for a system of designing regenerative human ecosystems. (Founded on the work of Fukuoka, Yeoman, Smith, etc.). In 1994 David Orr, in his book “Earth in Mind: On Education, Environment, and the Human Prospect”, compiled a series of essays on “ecological design intelligence” and its power to create healthy, durable, resilient, just, and prosperous communities. In 1994 Canadian biologists John Todd and Nancy Jack Todd, in their book “From Eco-Cities to Living Machines” describe the precepts of ecological design. In 2000 Ecosa Institute begins offering an Ecological Design Certificate, teaching designers to design with nature. And in 2004 Fritjof Capra, in his book “The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living”, wrote this primer on the science of living systems and considers the application of new thinking by life scientists to our understanding of social organization.

These are just a few of the pioneers involved in Ecological design or Ecodesign, and working to define the issues and subsequent solutions to built environment topics related to the health of people and the planet.

5. Resources: