Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

Five modern trends in sustainable architecture


Five modern trends in sustainable architecture


Posted24 September 2011, by Pratik Basu, EcoFriend (Instamedia),



With so many ecological concerns coming up every year, the need for the hour is to grasp the concept of Eco-friendly and sustainable architecture. The dawn of this green architecture came from the Eco-build in London, Cannes and the Earth Day and it seems to be develop rapidly in the developed countries. Green architecture can change the world. With rapid advancements in the field of Eco-friendly products, there is a huge demand for making buildings and construction techniques more greener and sustainable and less harmful for Earth. The world has grasped this idea very well. The need for new techniques and materials which can be easily recycled are taken into consideration. Here’s showcasing 5 trends in green and sustainable architecture which is a focus of attention amongst Eco-designers.


1. Vertical Farming


Vertical farming. Trends in sustainable architecture


With an expected increase in population to 9.1 billion people within the year 2050, feeding all the people around the globe is a cause for major concern. Food production needs to increase by 70%. This would mean having higher crop yields and expansion of the area cultivated. However land available for cultivation is not evenly distributed, while others are suitable for cultivating only a few crops. Thus architects have been designing buildings where one can grow crops on all the edges surrounding the building. This gives more area for cultivation and helps solve the expansion crisis. The vertical farms can be integrated with residential buildings too, with farms being set up on the external periphery of the buildings. This provides a clean environment for the residents to live in.


2. Straw


Straw House. Trends in sustainable architecture


Straw is a sustainable material which can be used as a building material. Many designers and builders today are making use of this natural material to make phenomenal designs which are Eco-friendly. These buildings can be made from prefabricated panels using straw. These panels can be assembled from locally sourced star which can be fit into the panel frame made from timber. This production style helps save money and energy and decrease build times and carbon emissions. Electricity can be generated by photovoltaic and solar thermal panels and the extra electricity can be sold to the electricity grid. The homes made by straw would be considerably cheaper, as straw is a product which is available in vast quantity. This low cost makes it more popular to the general masses.


3. Phase change materials (PCMs)


House from PCMTrends in sustainable architecture


Phase change materials are used to store both cooling and heating energy. These new age materials can be embedded in the ceiling and the wall tiles from where they absorb heat to keep the space cool and reduces the need for air conditioning. These Phase change material tiles have micro capsules made of a special wax which is developed to contain heat during the day. Some companies selling phase change materials claim that using the material reduces temperature of your indoor surrounding by almost 7ºC, hence reducing air conditioning costs.


4. Bees and biodiversity


Bees and diversityTrends in sustainable architecture


Bees are an integral part of our biodiversity. A small garden or a rooftop is all that is required to keep bees. They help in making delicious honey from plants and flowers in your gardens, parks and the tree lined roads. It is important to make an environment in cities that safeguards wildlife and also helps in further diversity. By incorporating biodiversity into architecture, we can make a cleaner and greener world. Hence keeping bees and making bee hives are an important step that needs to be taken to ensure a cleaner, greener environment. In London, vast number of bee hives have been created on the roof tops of buildings, attracting many bees.


5. Sustainable materials


Sustainable materialsTrends in sustainable architecture


Apart from the many products used in construction made from recycled materials, many researchers are looking at the construction industry for other sustainable materials from other sectors which are rarely used in design and construction.

Thousands of samples have been taken from countries all over the world. These selected materials provide an Eco-friendly alternative to other resource hungry materials which generally have many by products which are harmful to the environment. These samples are being studied and their properties are made good use of. So it is essential that we find sustainable materials which can be easily recycled and are durable and appropriate for construction.


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Retrofitting The Auckland Bioregion


Retrofitting The Auckland Bioregion

19 November


Posted21 September 2011, by Staff, Auckland Permaculture Workshop,



Tutor – Gary Marshall, Finn Mackesy and Rilke de Vos


“The question Where are we? has a deep, sustaining ring to it. It is a simple question with a deceptively complex answer”(Robert Thayer). This workshop asks participants to explore what it means to live locally in the Auckland bioregion. Through a series of discussions and design exercises, participants will investigate concepts and design strategies that seek to enrich their neighbourhoods and bioregion. The workshop includes a site visit to an on the ground example of a bioregional design and development initiative and talk with people involved.

Course content

Introduction to – Bioregionalism and Life Place theory; Bioregional and neighborhood audit and stocktake; Design strategies for retrofitting bioregions and neighbourhoods;Re-localization and Transition Culture – the Transition framework and the 12 Touchstones; Local, national and international best practice examples; Integrated Catchment Management, landscape ecology and settlement design.

Learning objectives

  • Develop a deepened understanding of the Auckland bioregion
  • Develop an understanding of the key principles of sustainable design and retrofitting
  • Develop strategies for living locally, enriching and retrofitting the Auckland bioregion for a sustainable and resilient future
  • Develop an understanding of retrofitting existing structures
  • Apply the day’s learning to a practical design activity
  • Identify opportunities and challenges to applying the day’s learning


Eco-retrofitting… means modifying buildings and/or urban areas to improve allover human and environmental health, and to reduce resource depletion, degradation and pollution – if not expand the ecological base. It implies an integrated and eco-logical design approach, instead of the mere addition of energy-saving equipment. It also implies a planning strategy that considers not just buildings but whole suburbs, cities and urban infrastructure”  \\ Janis Birkeland


Life Place, Bioregional Thought and Practice
Robert L. Thayer, 1999
A Field Guide to Auckland: Exploring the Region’s Natural and Historic Heritage
Cameron, Hayward and Murdoch, 2008
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built
Stewart Brand, 1994



Tutor – Gary Marshall, Finn Mackesy and Rilke de Vos

“The question Where are we? has a deep, sustaining ring to it. It is a simple question with a deceptively complex answer”(Robert Thayer). This workshop asks participants to explore what it means to live locally in the Auckland bioregion. Through a series of discussions and design exercises, participants will investigate concepts and design strategies that seek to enrich their neighbourhoods and bioregion. The workshop includes a site visit to an on the ground example of a bioregional design and development initiative and talk with people involved.

Course content

Introduction to – Bioregionalism and Life Place theory; Bioregional and neighborhood audit and stocktake; Design strategies for retrofitting bioregions and neighbourhoods;Re-localization and Transition Culture – the Transition framework and the 12 Touchstones; Local, national and international best practice examples; Integrated Catchment Management, landscape ecology and settlement design.

Learning objectives

  • Develop a deepened understanding of the Auckland bioregion
  • Develop an understanding of the key principles of sustainable design and retrofitting
  • Develop strategies for living locally, enriching and retrofitting the Auckland bioregion for a sustainable and resilient future
  • Develop an understanding of retrofitting existing structures
  • Apply the day’s learning to a practical design activity
  • Identify opportunities and challenges to applying the day’s learning


Life Place, Bioregional Thought and Practice
Robert L. Thayer, 1999
A Field Guide to Auckland: Exploring the Region’s Natural and Historic Heritage
Cameron, Hayward and Murdoch, 2008
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built
Stewart Brand, 1994

The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion



The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion

The Personal Mega-Sized Eye of Horus: Naomi Campbell’s Eco-Mansion


Posted 19 September 2011, by Vrushti Mawani, Industry Leaders Magazine,



An ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health, the Eye of Horus has been reproduced in its most physically monumental form on the Isla Playa de Cleopatra in Turkey in the form of Naomi Campbell’s eco-palace.

The 25-bedroom home, designed by Spanish architect Luis de Garrido, reported as being the architect’s gift to Campbell, has been designed to function in a largely self-sufficient manner.

With features that enhance the ability of the building to be self-sufficient in terms of its energy and water needs, Campbell’s new island mansion functions as an off-grid home complete with photovoltaic panels, a sophisticated geothermal system and an interior landscaped terrace.

Eye-ball Home Details

Naomi Campbell’s palatial eco-home, with its over two dozen bedrooms and five lounges, is one of the latest to join the rapidly growing list of eco-friendly celebrity island abodes, like Johnny Depp’s solar hydrogen fuel powered home in the Bahamas.

The large steel-and-glass dome, the eyeball of the Eye of Horus, is light and transparent, letting in natural light and warmth all year round. The intensity of how much light and warmth filter in is controlled by horizontal louvers, landscaping, and glazed windows.

Campbell’s personal Eye of Horus in Turkey has been designed by devising an ingenious system of structuring photovoltaic panels which helps generate a large share of the energy required to run the building. The rest of the energy requirement is met by a highly sophisticated geothermal system and passive design.

The design of this eco-mansion also includes a detailed rainwater harvesting system, while wastewater from the home is treated on site with the use of a biological treatment system, further increasing this home’s overall energy efficiency.

The architect has also tried to ensure that the house is well-ventilated, to address any concerns about the greenhouse effect creating an uncomfortable humidity level. The indoor landscaped terrace on the top floor of this eco-palace further contributes to the home’s superior microclimate.

Architect Luis de Garrido

Architect Luis de Garrido has, over the last few years, been in the spotlight for his signature style of creating designs based on the theme of “artificial nature”.

Luis De Garrido’s bold, yet respectful, design philosophy states “The architect can even surpass Nature, but to do so, they must understand it, take it in, and love it with all their souls.”

De Garrido’s expertise where new-age sustainable architectural technologies are concerned is demonstrated perfectly in projects like GREEN BOX, which is the first modular Garden-House that is prefabricated, can be built in just 15 days, is reusable, transportable, has an infinite life cycle, is bioclimatic, has zero energy consumption, and does not generate waste.

Intermodal Steel Building Units (ISBU) awarded Luis de Garrido the 2008 Architect of the Year Award for his sustainable Bio-climatic architecture, educational symposiums and the innovative award winning architectural designs.



Permaculture (How to Design Systems for Sustainable, Community Living) – Bill Mollison


Permaculture (How to Design Systems for Sustainable, Community Living) – Bill Mollison


Posted16 September 2011, by Staff, Sterling Insights,




Permaculture (permanent agriculture/culture) is the use of Ecology as the basis for designing integrated systems of food production, housing, technology, & community development. The objective is to produce an efficient, low-maintenance, productive integration of plants, structures & people, to obtain on-site stability & food self-sufficiency in the smallest practical area.

See also:


Bruce Charles ‘Bill’ Mollison (born 1928 in Tasmania, Australia) is a researcher, author, scientist, teacher and naturalist. He is considered to be the ‘father of permaculture‘, an integrated system of design, co-developed with David Holmgren, that encompasses not only agriculture, horticulture, architecture and ecology, but also economic systems, land access strategies and legal systems for businesses and communities.

He received the Right Livelihood Award in 1981 with Patrick van Rensburg.

Bill Mollison, father of Permaculture, gives insight into the techniques, practices and benefits of the most important interdisciplinary earth science of our age.  Watch the following videos to learn about his concepts:















Green Buildings 101: Bioclimatic Design


Green Buildings 101: Bioclimatic Design


Posted 13 September 2011, by Jennifer Shockley, Green Building Elements (Important Media),


Design industries are taking new approaches to environmentally sustainable projects. Being aware and being pro-active is no longer a phase it is mandatory that in every project, our impact on the earth is accounted for. This accountability is found in Bioclimatic Design.

Bioclimatic Design is the reduction of energy consumption using appropriate techniques such as energy efficient systems and technologies including, but not limited to, passive solar systems. Passive solar systems are based on a building, its spaces, both interior and exterior, and the local climate.

Bioclimatic Design is the use of environmental sources: air, sun, wind, vegetation, water, soil, daylight for heating, cooling and lighting of buildings. Plus when a design takes into account the local climate, these factors must be considered and designed around: heat protection including insulation and air tightness, solar energy for heat and light, sun protection with the orientation, use of reflective materials, surfaces and colors, and the removal of heat with natural ventilation.

Kane Cres writes,

“As inhabitants of buildings, we can make our lives more comfortable, preserve the environment, our health and well being. We can use them appropriately to this end.

The energy we consume in buildings is costly. It is worthwhile asking ourselves who pays for this consumption and why.”

To achieve perfect balance with the environment with the use of Bioclimatic Designs the industry will require all kinds of participants. The manufacturing companies, the sellers, the designers, and the clients must all be on board and willing to achieve great designs through green technologies and to demand that their expectations be met, if a material is not available at the highest economy-safe standards, than a material must be designed at that level.

Different projects and companies are already displaying the smart choices that go along with Bioclimatic Design.

Elmer Avenue "Green Street"

In Los Angeles, a 40-acre neighborhood area known as Elmer Avenue has become a complete ‘green street.’ It is a Neighborhood Retrofit Demonstration Project following the water augmentation study done by the Council for Watershed Health to help lower dependency on foreign water supplies and to suppress flooding that occurs from the annual, although short-lived, winter downpours.

This street utilizes a variety of strategies to capture rainwater and runoff through the soil, clean it, and recycle it by added the water to the aquifers. The one block location generates and now captures more water than they use in an entire year.

“By capturing the rainwater, Southern California reduces its reliance on foreign sources of water and improves the overall health of the landscape. In addition, it helps save energy, since an incredible 19% of our energy use in California is devoted just to the movement of water from place to place!” wrote Brian Sheridan, Development and Marketing Manager of the Council for Watershed Health.

Elmer Avenue is a project designed to rehabilitate the neighborhood and also it is a continuous active research project that will benefit many communities in the future.

Elmer Avenue Bio-swale

The project implements the use of:

  • Under street filtration galleries
  • Open bottom catch basins
  • Bio-swales
  • Rain barrels
  • Permeable pavers
  • Climate appropriate landscape
  • Solar street lights

The first phase of the project was completed in 2010 becoming LA’s first off-the-grid neighborhood and the second phase will include an additional 20 acres, thereby capturing 60 acres of land’s rainwater to add to the aquifers.

Another company dedicated to Bioclimatic Design is a start-up company called First Coast Solar Screens founded by John Wilder a RESNET Certified Energy Auditor.

Solar screens can reduce temperatures of the sun coming through glass by embracing a relatively new technology of sun-screen fabrics. John Wilder wrote,

“The sun’s heat coming through glass almost works like a magnifying glass. I just took the temp coming through a skylight at our city hall yesterday and it was 117 degrees I took a temp through an east facing window in our school and it was 108 degrees. The solar screens reduce these temps down in the low 70′s which of course have a dramatic effect on your AC bill. They are literally the best bang for your buck in energy savings and typically have a 1-2 year payback.”

First Coast Solar Screens uses Phifer solar screening products.

Phifer fabrics

Phifer was founded by Reese Phifer and is the world’s leading manufacturer and seller of energy saving sun control fabrics for residential and commercial use.

 “Phifer’s commitment to the environment dates back to the company’s origins when our founder, Reese Phifer, envisioned a manufacturing facility that would bring a better standard of living to its community, advances in technology to its industry and innovative products to its customers.”

They offer products of insect control, plus interior and exterior sun control. Their products are 100 percent recyclable and their fabrics are PVC-free.

Their production process includes a waste management program, employee awareness training and pollution prevention programs to insure that they stay as green as possible.

Phifer was the first manufacturer in their industry to receive GREENGUARD Certification. They state,

 “At Phifer, environmental responsibility is part of our corporate culture. We are leaders. We are proactive. We do it because it is the right thing to do.”

Sun Control

GREENGUARD is an environmental institute that was created to help manufacturers to improve their processes and to do so in a more environmentally-safe and aware way. It has helped manufacturing companies in more than 20 industries to improve their processes.

As this article could continue on for endless pages, circling through all the companies that make up design industries, it is evident that Bioclimatic Design is everywhere and requires everyone’s commitment. It is throughout the design industries and is becoming a required mind-set verses a personal choice. It will take every industry, every person to re-establish what we’ve taken from and done to the earth.

Bioclimatic Design is a circle engulfing the world to make it a better place.


Resources: Greenguard, Phifer, Council for Watershed Health, The American Institute of Architects and Kane Cres

Special Thanks to: John Wilder and Brian Sheridan



5 micro wind turbines that can have a big impact on the environment


5 micro wind turbines that can have a big impact on the environment


Posted 12 September 2011, by Mahashweta Patra, EcoFriend (Instamedia),



Wind energy generators have been around for centuries in various shapes and sizes. But as the eco-friendliness becomes a constant topic for concern, the wind energy generator or windmills are moving up in the preferred list of those concerned about energy and environment. Wind is one of the natural and renewable sources for thermal power generation. Scientifically, it is defined as conversion of kinetic energy (the motion energy) into mechanical power. However, large sized wind turbines are mainly suitable for the sea side or hill top areas. Therefore, many micro wind turbines (about 5+ meter of height) have been designed and have become very popular for generating sufficient electric power. Micro turbines are mainly suitable for off-grid places, where national grid electricity can not be accessible. The entire process comprises of the storage of generated electricity first in battery banks and then the circulation of the energy via inverters in the form of 240 A.C electricity.


When it was realized that micro turbines were not apt for urban areas, basically because of its noisy generator and poor functionality in low average wind speed, micro wind turbines became very popular. The micro wind turbines also provide an additional support to national grid electricity for specific areas. The micro wind turbine can be fitted on the roof tops conveniently and is capable of producing enough power for basic household consumption. These micro wind turbines are quieter with minimal vibration than the conventional turbines. There are several domestic micro wind turbines such as Windsave 1000 and D400 StealthGen, which are available in cost effective rates and are eco-friendly as well.

Here is the list of various types of micro wind turbines:

1.Skystream 3.7– The Original Skystream Personal Wind Turbine


Skystream 3.7: The Original Skystream Personal Wind Turbine

Skystream 3.7 wind turbine is well suited for homes and business areas. The most exciting feature of this energy generating machine is that, it functions even in low wind environment. It is a user friendly machine and can be easily controlled with the help of Skyview monitoring software installed in your computer system. This Skystream 3.7 comes in a sleek and modish design and there are monopole towers of varied lengths. Good efficiency even in low wind speed (due to presence of special blades which are swept shaped) and excellent durability with easy to operate are some of the highlights of this micro wind turbine. It also comes with a warranty of 5 years. The entire set up is capable of producing 400 Kilowatt hours of electric power per month and is highly recommended for schools and government buildings.

2.Bergey Excel


Excel: Bergey Excel

Bergey Excel was introduced first in the year of 1983. This wind turbine is installed at around 1,800 sites across the world till date. Recently, this specific turbine has been upgraded with powerful alternator and larger blades to enhance its efficiency and performance by 25 percent. This machine basically designed with around 7-meter diameter is estimated to produce approx 10,000 W power. Bergey Excel wind turbine is available in two configurations: grid-connected and battery charging form. It is highly reliable turbine and requires very low maintenance and functions in the adverse weather conditions as well. Also available with varied height towers (18m to 43m) and bending versions, these micro wind turbines are also offered as per your location. It is highly recommended for locations like Eco- tourism resorts, larger tele-communication sites, big rural areas, remote villages and places with lesser facilities. The price ranges varies from 25,770$ to 31,770$ due to upgradation with a voltage regulator or a grid synchronous inverter

3.Whisper 500

Whisper 500: Micro wind turbine

The Whisper 500 turbine is specifically designed to encounter the harsh and high speed wind conditions. The attention has been paid to its extraordinary design, which includes two blades with fiberglass reinforced design. The component named angle governor helps in protection of the turbine by turning the blades and alternator out of the wind. As a result, there is less exposure of turbine in high speed environment conditions. The side-furling angle governor basically helps in carrying out smooth functioning of the turbine resulting into the high yield of energy by this machine. It produces around 500 Kilowatt Hours of power every month with the wind speed of 12 mph. The only drawback of this machine is that it is not suitable for the installation in marine areas.

4. AeroVironment Architectural Wind

Architectural Wind: AeroVironment Architectural Wind

This particular kind of turbine is quite different from the conventional wind turbines, specifically in terms of design. The AeroVironment Architectural Wind design is such that it can contribute in easy production of thermal energy. It is mainly designed for commercial buildings and can also add up to the architectural beauty of the building. This micro turbine is to be placed at specific positions of the building to take the complete advantage of accelerated wind that eventually results into 50 percent maximum production of thermal energy than the power generated by the systems located outside the acceleration zone. This clean culture of power generation is very popular and adapted by most of the commercial offices.

5.Southwest Windpower AIR X marine

AIR XSouthwest Windpower AIR X marine

Southwest Windpower AIR X marine is considered as the latest evolution in the history of micro wind turbines. The AIR-X turbine is the world’s largest selling turbine so far. The special features associated with this machine make it more advanced and popular in contemporary time. The additional features include a micro-processor to regulate the speed that helps in enhancing the performance, advanced body charging capability and reduction in loud noise generated by the device. The controller attached to the main machine helps in keeping a track of the wind by controlling the function of the alternator. The main function of the cubic curve alternator is to generate the energy to be delivered to the battery. The smart controller of the turbine helps in proper movement of the blades and reduces the possibilities of flutter noise.

Recently, a new range of carbon reinforced blades with optimum angle direction has been introduced. These are very useful in increasing power production. The noise system is basically controlled by the efficient electronic circuit system of this micro wind turbine type. For example the electronic circuit system slows down the blades in case of heavy winds. Apart from this, special battery set up has also been introduced which mainly focuses on high battery durability and no overcharging. Any battery size bank between 25 amp-25,000 amp hours or higher can easily be associated with this kind of turbine. Also there is a special auto brake feature to slow down the AIR-X turbine to silent spin when the battery is fully charged and indirectly also helps in reducing noise. The highlight of this turbine system is that a manual switch on-off control option is attached to it. This wind turbine design is highly resistant to any critical situation of wind, sun and water and does not require any additional support of a tower.

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Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti : The City in the Image of Man

Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti : The City in the Image of Man

Posted 03 September 2011, by Oscar Lopez, ArchDaily (Plataforma Networks),


70 miles north of Phoenix, in central Arizona lies an experimental town created by Paolo Soleri, intended to house 5,000 people. Arcosanti is the study of the concept of arcology, which combines architecture and ecology. The intensions of this community is to form a gestalt that houses the relations and interactions that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment.

Click here to view the embedded video.

One of the most imaginative thinkers of our time, Paolo Soleri has dedicated his life to addressing the ecological and social concerns raised by modern urban existence. Soleri’s career contains significant accomplishments in the fields of architecture and urban planning, and his groundbreaking philosophical writings on arcology, the co-presence of architecture with ecology, continues to garner interest globally.

Born in 1919 in Turin, Italy, Soleri spent his earliest years absorbing the European landscape, culture, and architecture. He received his Ph.D. in Architecture from Torino Polytechnico in 1946. Soon after graduating, Dr. Soleri moved to the United States to attend Frank Lloyd Wright’s apprenticeship program at Taliesin West in Arizona.

Soleri returned to Italy in 1950, where he was commissioned to design a large ceramics factory, Ceramic Artistica Solimene, which is now an Italian historical landmark. During this time he began working as a ceramic artist, acquiring the ceramics knowledge he would later apply to producing windbells. Over the next fifty years, these ceramic windbells, along with his explorations in metal casting with bronze windbells and sculptural commissions, would serve as the major source of funding for the construction that would test his theoretical works.

Together with his wife Colly and their two daughters, Kristine and Daniela, Soleri moved to Scottsdale, Arizona in 1956. There they established the not-for-profit Cosanti Foundation and began work on the group of buildings that bears the same name, Cosanti. It is at Cosanti where Soleri began his initial architectural experiments with various earth-casting techniques.

In 1970, Paolo Soleri embarked on what is his most ambitious work, Arcosanti. Located in the high desert of central Arizona, Arcosanti is being constructed as a prototype arcology. Arcosanti is a materialization of arcology theoretics; the community embodies Soleri’s vision for a sustainable urban alternative. Since its inception in 1970, the development and construction of Arcosanti has been at the center of Soleri’s life and work.

Arcology is Paolo Soleri’s concept for cities that embody the co-presence of architecture and ecology. The arcology concept proposes a highly integrated and compact three-dimensional urban form that is the opposite of suburban sprawl, with its inherently wasteful consumption of resources and tendency to isolate people from each other and the community. The miniaturization of the physical environment of the city enables effective conservation of land, energy and resources.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Traditionally, an arcology is a set of architectural design principles aimed toward the design hyperstructure habitats of extremely high human population density. An arcology is distinguished from a merely large building or habitat in that it is supposed to sustainably supply all or most of the resourses for comfortable life: power, climate control, food production air and water purification, sewage treatment, etc.. It is supposed to supply these items for a large population. Also, an arcology would need no connections to municipal or urban infrastructure in order to operate.

Arcologies were proposed to reduce human impacts on natural resources. Arcology designs often apply conventional building and civil engineering techniques in very large, but practical projects in order to achieve economies that are difficult to achieve in other ways. Frank Lloyd Wright proposed an early version with his Broadacre City.

His plan described transportation, agriculture, and commerce systems that would support an economy. Similar to Soleri’s Arcosanti, Broadacre City faced critics who said that their proposed solution failed to account the realistic problems that come with sustaining a habitat of a large population and also they tried to assume a more rigid way of living and democracy than that of independent means and that of a formalized government.

“The problem I am confronting is the present design of cities only a few stories high, stretching outward in unwieldy sprawl for miles. As a result of their sprawl, they literally transform the earth, turn farms into parking lots and waste enormous amounts of time and energy transporting people, goods and services over their expanses. My proposition is urban implosion rather than explosion”. 

-Paolo Soleri, Earth’s Answer, 1977

Today’s typical city devotes more than half of its land to the function of the automobile. In anarcology, automobiles are eliminated from the confines of the city. The multi-use nature of the buildings in arcology design place living, working and public spaces within easy reach of each other, thus walking becomes the main form of transportation within the city.

An arcology’s direct proximity to uninhabited land provides the city dweller with immediate and low-impact access to rural space, as well as allowing agriculture to be situated near the city. In turn, this maximizes the logistical efficiency of food distribution systems. An arcology uses passive solar architectural techniques such as the apse effect, greenhouse architecture, and garment architecture to reduce the energy usage of the city, particularly in relation to heating, lighting, and cooling.

Overall, arcology seeks to exemplify a “Lean Alternative” to hyper-consumption and wastefulness through more frugal, efficient and intelligent city design.

Click here to view the embedded video.

“Arcology is capable of demonstrating a positive response to the many problems of urban civilization, those of population, pollution, energy and natural resource depletion, food scarcity, and quality of life. The city structure must contract, or miniaturize, in order to support the complex activities that sustain human culture and give it new perception and renewed trust in society and its future. A central tenet of arcology is that the city is the necessary instrument for the evolution of humankind”.

-Paolo Soleri, Earth’s Answer, 1977

In 1970, Paolo Soleri and the Cosanti Foundation began construction on Arcosanti, an urban laboratory in the high desert of central Arizona. Designed according to the concept of arcology, Arcosanti will house 5,000 people when complete, demonstrating ways to improve urban conditions and lessen our negative impact on the earth. Its large, compact structures and large-scale solar greenhouses will occupy only 25 acres of a 4,060-acre land preserve, keeping the natural countryside in close proximity to urban dwellers.

Master Plan

Urban sprawl, spreading across the landscape, causes enormous waste, frustration, and long-term costs by depleting land and resources. Dependency on the automobile intensifies these problems, while increasing pollution, congestion, and social isolation. Arcosanti attempts to address these issues by building a three-dimensional, pedestrian-oriented city. Because this plan eliminates sprawl, both the urban and natural environments keep their integrity and thrive. Arcosanti is a prototype: if successful, it will become a model for how the world builds its cities.

According to Soleri’s theory of arcology, at Arcosanti many systems work together, with efficient circulation of people and resources, multi-use buildings, and solar orientation for lighting, heating and cooling. In this complex environment, apartments, businesses, production, technology, open space, studios, educational and cultural events are all accessible, even while privacy is paramount in the overall design.

Arcosanti is an educational center. The five-week workshop program teaches building techniques and arcological philosophy while continuing construction. Volunteers and students come from around the world, experiencing Arcosanti through hands-on participation in its growth and development. Many are design students and some receive university credit for the workshop. However, a design or architecture background is not necessary.

At the present stage of construction, Arcosanti consists of a dozen mixed-use buildings constructed by 6,000 past workshop participants. These buildings house 60 to 80 residents, who are continually working on the construction and maintenance of the built environment. These longterm residents are workshop alumni, and work in planning, construction, landscaping, maintenance, cooking, carpentry, metal work, ceramics, gardening, communications, and administration. They produce the world-famous Soleri Bells and are visited by 50,000 tourists every year.


Paolo Soleri’s Arcosanti : The City in the Image of Man originally appeared on ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website on 03 Sep 2011.


(Ed Note: Please visit the original site  for many photographs, diagrams and artwork associated with this article.)

Experienced Space and the Innovative City


Experienced Space and the Innovative City

People who work with ideas and who drive the knowledge economy are those most able to relocate, and they will do so if repelled by a city with an alien geometry, towards a city with spatio-temporal attractions on the human scale.


Posted 02 September 2011, by Nikos A. Salingaros, Raise The Hammer,


We connect to our environment – as distinct from merely reacting to it – through coherent complex structures. Quality of life can be positive or negative depending on whether our bodies interact harmoniously with the temporal events caused by a city, as permitted by its geometry.

What attracts the educated and the talented to a city is measured in part by geometric criteria, not by an alien urban morphology that follows a modernist design ideology.

Experienced space and socio-geometric connectivity

The twentieth century’s scientific and technological advances enabled a whole new level of living that brought quality of life in terms of vastly improved medical care, transport, energy availability, and communications. In our time we have come to take all of this for granted.

Nevertheless, in parallel with these developments, humankind lost a timeless connection to the world that did not involve science, because this connection is not quantitative (Alexander, 2001-2005).

We tend to forget and dismiss our inherited socio-geometric patterns whenever they cannot fit into the mentality created by advancing technology. This loss of patterns has caused the loss of essential aspects of human existence, and it has profound implications for energy use (Salingaros, 2000).

Talking about connecting viscerally to a building characteristically makes people in our contemporary culture uneasy. We have lost part of our sense of attachment to a place, even if we normally don’t notice it consciously. We have grown accustomed to buildings that emphasize the look and feel of technology: buildings that are, in fact, little more than an image.

How, really, do we connect with a building, with a space, with a place? How do the parts of a building connect with each other? Connectivity can be described in mathematical terms through processes occurring in space; it depends on how we perceive that space.

For millennia, our ancestors built sacred places and buildings that connect us to something beyond everyday reality. For them, living in a pre-industrial age, it was easier to understand this connection than it is for many of us today.

We connect to our environment – as distinct from merely reacting to it – only through coherent complex structures. Coherence and symmetries of form make possible the continuation of the biophilic effect from living systems into artificial complex designs or structures.

Twentieth-century and contemporary buildings that have either minimalist or disordered forms cannot connect with the user. The result is an intentional lack of coherent complexity in the built environment (Salingaros, 2006).

A dramatic demonstration of the principles of Biophilia and human socio-geometric patterns can be seen when they are violated. Failing to respect evolved architectural and urban typologies, twentieth-century architects and urbanists went ahead and constructed block housing and high-rises with segregated functions as the solution to urban problems. These implementations were uniformly disastrous.

Firstly, architects and planners ignored evolved urban codes that had proved themselves through the centuries. Instead, they built monstrous blocks. These architects showed incredible arrogance in their approach to design, believing they could force their will on both people and urban functions and override forces that shape urban form and human use.

For example, they designated the fourth storey and roof for specific commercial activities that never took place. Socio-geometric patterns of human use preclude such spaces and locations from ever being used in the imagined manner, just as the “playgrounds” and “plazas” designed according to some abstract geometry have remained despised, feared, and unused.

Secondly, architects and planners constructed dwellings and neighborhoods devoid of any intimate contact with nature. A family isolated inside an immense block housing project is detached from nature. Their quality of life drops. Even the fundamental pattern of “2 Meter Balcony”, which could at least be used to grow plants, is stubbornly ignored by architects of apartments in high rises (Alexander et. al., 1977).

Having some trees in a vast windswept plain outside the block is totally useless. Most twentieth-century attempts at living environments have failed because they contradict all the rules for the traditional design of urban spaces and gardens in the interest of a “new style” that is image-based.

Thirdly, architects and planners created monofunctional urban segregation, which violates the most basic urban patterns that make a city grow in the first place. Cities exist in order to connect people with each other and to mix activities. Incredibly, twentieth-century urbanism took the anti-urban slogan of spatially separated uses as a starting point, and governments used it to reconstruct their cities after World War II.

These anti-urban practices were legislated into zoning laws so that it became illegal to build living urban fabric. The problem is that self-proclaimed experts were offering toxic advice on architecture and planning, and some of these people held positions of great academic and media prestige. Politicians and decision makers followed their advice simply out of respect for authority.

Connecting beyond everyday experience

I highlight here questions about connecting to place in a more complete manner. How far can we intensify our emotional connection and still explain it biologically? Emotional highs come from love, music, art, architecture, poetry, and literature. Mechanisms of response are all biological (sensory apparatus), although the most important elements are still incompletely understood.

Connection is achieved through dance, music, art, and architecture. The common properties among these creations include patterns, regularity, repetition, nesting, hierarchy, scaling, and fractal structure. They are demonstrable geometrical patterns, not mystical properties.

Going further, the highest artistic expression is related to religion. Bach, Mozart, Botticelli, Michelangelo, generations of anonymous artists and architects of Islamic art and architecture, and mystics of the world achieved such profound connection. By seeking God through beauty, human beings have attained the highest level of connection to the universe (Alexander, 2001-2005).

For millennia, human beings have sought to connect to some sacred realm through architecture. Though we have as yet no scientific explanation for such a phenomenon, we cannot deny either its existence or its importance for the quality of human life. We experience this connection – a visceral feeling – in a great religious building or a place of great natural beauty.

The Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy speaks about the sacred structure even in everyday environments (Fathy, 1973). Christopher Alexander (2001-2005) describes connecting to a larger coherence, and such a connection is in fact one of the principal factors in enhancing our quality of life. Nevertheless, we hardly even have the vocabulary to talk about it.

Without specifying any particular organized religion, spirituality grounded in physical experience can lead to connectivity. Is this connective mechanism by which we try to interact with our creator the same mechanism as Biophilia? Maybe it is, only possibly more advanced and thus a far more intense source of emotional nourishment than that obtained from strictly physical experience.

Can we transcend biological connection so as to achieve an even higher spiritual connection? As opposed to religious experience or a religious attitude, religious belief itself is abstract, being resident in the mind. But the connection associated with religious experience can occur through geometry, the physical senses, music, rhythm, color, etc.

Religious connection can be very physical, oftentimes intensely so. This physical connection gives us the materialization of sacred experience.

Dance, song, and music express temporal rhythm. Bharatnatyam, classical Indian dancing, African shamanic dance, Native American religious dance, whirling dervishes in Mevlana, Turkey, and Hassidic dances are all mystical dance forms that contain geometric qualities of periodicity and temporal scaling coherence.

Greek culture historically interlaced mystical dance with musical experience giving birth to Classical Tragedy, features that evolved into the main emotional component in the celebration of Christianity. In the West the Masses of Bach, Haydn, and Mozart show fractal temporal structure – an inverse power-law scaling.

Sacred chant in all religions connects human beings to a story, ritual, and precious cultural reference point. Holy days are marked by special song, such as the Byzantine Easter service, Passion Plays, Kol Nidre during Yom Kippur, Buddhist ceremonial chant, etc.

In architecture all over the world, the House of God displays the connective qualities we seek, often to their highest possible extent. Independent of the particular religion or style, this effect is found among all religious building types. Architects of the past instinctively built according to rules for generating scaling coherence.

All the examples I have mentioned – whether music, dance, art, or architecture – have common mathematical qualities: fractals, symmetries, rhythm, hierarchy, scaling distribution, etc. Deliberate creations by traditional humanity the world over were trying to connect to something beyond everyday experience.

Sponsored disconnection

Within this biophilic framework, some religions have been more successful than others in fighting against the despoliation of nature and the dehumanization of human beings.

The more conservative of the organized religions seem to have fared much better at saving their heritage in recent decades. Fearing the intrusion of foreign cultures and the exploitation by foreign commercial interests, they have tried to shield themselves from what are rightly perceived as consumerist and nihilistic currents in Western art and culture.

Ironically, many established religions in the West have embraced those same artistic trends in an effort to remain “up-to-date” so as not to lose members. We have concrete examples in recent churches that, far from evoking the love and image of God, instead conjure the image either of secular neutrality (warehouse/garage) or an expression of evil (slaughterhouse/crematorium).

An established Church that sponsors and builds religious art and its own temples in a style that induces anxiety will likely be judged as an accomplice to a global nihilistic movement. Buildings that generate anxiety, consciously or unconsciously, compromise the very continuity of such a Church.

Anxiety, alienation, and consumerism have little to do with love, charity, and compassion. Anxiety-inducing forms are instead associated with power, transgression, and sadism; therefore their attraction is that of a cult of power.

Negative reaction by more traditional religious authorities against contemporary church buildings in the West is not usually reported because of its politically explosive implications, but it exists, and it is damning. New churches that are praised by the western press are condemned as anti-religious by Eastern religious authorities (who apparently have not lost as much of their sacred connection) on the basis of the fashionable churches’ geometry.

A State, too, can commission prominent public buildings that through their style objectively evoke anxiety. A hostile reaction to buildings in a nihilistic style that the government has sponsored turns into hostility against the government itself.

This does not bode well for political stability in the coming decades, when citizens wake up to the fact that public money spent on anxiety-inducing buildings promoted by an ideological elite drove their country into debt.

The past few decades have seen a building spree of inhuman structures (museums, art galleries, schools, hospitals, libraries, government buildings, monuments, etc.) and environments in an ill-conceived desire to conform to a “contemporary” architectural fashion.

We have already witnessed foreign reaction to inhuman buildings in the rich Western countries but we misinterpreted it as hostility towards the West’s economic wealth rather than a legitimate critique of the architecture proper. Nevertheless, similar buildings and urban regions built in developing countries by those same “star” architects who build showcase buildings in the West arouse the same hostile sentiments among the local population.

I believe that a correct interpretation of the negative reaction ordinary people experience around contemporary buildings in the fashionable style is based upon its rejection of Biophilia, but the soundness of this negative reaction is conveniently negated by a powerful architectural establishment that promotes such buildings all over the world.

The accusations of nihilism from both within and without Western society are deflected onto “foreigners”, while critics of Western fashionable architecture are deemed not sufficiently “contemporary”.

Spatio-temporal rhythms in the city that attracts talent

A living city works well because it encourages actions, interactions, and movements, all of which depend upon certain scales in space and time. Spatial scales are defined by physical structures from the size of a 3mm ornament on a park bench or public lamppost up to the size of a city’s region that can be identified as more-or-less coherent within itself.

Biophilia requires the existence of the entire range of scales corresponding to the human body (1mm to 2m) extending into the range of scales of pedestrian movement (2m to 1km). With various forms of transport, our spatial experience expands to scales of the entire city and beyond.

Quality of life depends proportionally on how we can experience all scales in a non-threatening manner, with a priority placed upon the smaller scales corresponding to the human body.

Twentieth-century urbanists disdained the human scales, turning against them because smaller scales are a defining feature in traditional urbanism. The complex spatial rhythms of traditional environments are therefore missing by design from city regions constructed during the past century.

Even when a new environment is labeled as being a “quality” environment, that label most often refers to how closely the built structure (building, cluster of buildings, urban plaza, public sculpture, etc.) follows a minimalist sculptural ideal that eschews complex spatial rhythms.

In the built environment of the past several decades we find scales irrelevant to the range of human scales, except in those crucial exceptions (restaurants, shopping malls) where retail overrides design ideology.

An even more neglected aspect of urban life concerns its temporal rhythms (Drewe, 2005). Everyday life is defined as a complex coherent system of actions and movements on many different time scales. Some time phenomena are spatially independent, but many depend critically upon the urban geometry. Again, the shorter periods affect us most, as they have an immediate correlation with our own bodily rhythms.

We are dependent upon events that occur over times of 1 sec to 24 hours. Quality of life can be positive or negative depending on whether our bodies interact harmoniously with the temporal events caused by a city and permitted by its geometry. The temporal dimension of urbanism is a poorly-explored topic.

Time is defined either in abstract intervals, or much more physically in terms of body movement. Motion could be a response to a physical need, yet any movement is constrained by the physical space – furniture, room, corridor, urban space – we occupy at that moment (Schrader, 2005).

The geometry and material quality of the physical environment impacts on our possible movement; we perceive spatial constraints from non-biophilic structures, which limit us from freely designing our own rhythms.

Our daily routine involves a range of movements and any pattern in our daily activity defines a temporal rhythm. Periodic events could occur throughout the day, or as once-a-day longer-term rhythms. Some movements in daily routine are necessary, whereas we choose to perform others for our physical enjoyment. We try to establish such rhythms out of a natural need for temporal order.

A city wishing to attract new talent has to offer, among many other things, an urban morphology that accommodates both Biophilia and daily life on the human range of temporal scales. This is the “dance of life” (Hall, 1984), and like classical dance forms from all cultures, urban movement has its rhythm, complex fractal structure, and continuity (Whyte, 1988).

People may not immediately perceive the effects of this dance upon their bodies, but our organism accumulates either the positive or negative effects of our daily routine, and will start giving us signals. Positive signals translate into wellbeing and being able to cope with unavoidable stress, whereas negative signals wear us out so that we become decreasingly able to handle normal stress in our daily environment.

Our health suffers because a weakened body is prone to both external infection and to internal imbalances.

For example, a commuting trip of over 30 min generates stress, regardless of the means of transport. Research has discovered that people are willing to commute for up to one hour daily (round-trip), whether it is through walking, private car, public transport, bus, subway, or commuter train (Newman and Kenworthy, 1999).

When this time is exceeded, however, quality of life diminishes. Therefore, the massive trade-off of enjoying a suburban front/back yard with lawn in exchange for two hours or more of round-trip commuting is actually not cost-effective as far as Biophilia is concerned.

Having access to a pedestrian environment (not necessarily strictly pedestrian; the traditional city with wide sidewalks lined with stores does very well) offers the possibility of excursions on foot that can be of any duration. A complex connected pedestrian geometry allows periodic actions of, say, 15 min (e.g. a trip to a coffee shop or park), which are unfeasible in a car city.

Such trips do not need to be planned, just enjoyed if the visual stimulation and other factors are positive, and the duration of trips that are necessary for a specific function can be adjusted according to the occasion.

This flexibility in time is not possible when driving to a destination, and the situation is only slightly better for public transport. In the Metropolitan transport of some central cities, a passenger can profit from the commerce located in and around the stations, but bus stops tend to be located in dreary places, with stations exposed or in hostile environments.

“Innovation” requires an environment that encourages a state of physical and emotional wellbeing (Ward and Holtham, 2000). The new dematerialized economy relies more and more on the material structure of the immediate surroundings.

Persons who are not dependent upon the physical city for their work still rely upon the physical city for their wellbeing, demanding an environment that permits spatio-temporal rhythms. They judge where to locate using spatio-temporal and biophilic criteria.

People who work with ideas and who drive the knowledge economy are those most able to relocate, and they will do so if repelled by a city with an alien geometry, towards a city with spatio-temporal attractions on the human scale. Many knowledge workers nowadays occasionally base themselves in coffee shops with a wireless high-speed internet connection.

It is the wish of almost every city to position itself as a magnet for talent, for then it can attract knowledge industries such as Information and Communication Technologies, finance, advanced technology, arts industries, etc. to create a hub for the “Knowledge Society” (Tinagli, 2005).

It is well known that a concentration of talent and educated workforce pushes a city’s economy up to international standards, with corresponding feedback that benefits the entire city.

Ever since the West’s manufacturing base shifted to the developing world, industrial production became much less attractive. Even in the developing world that has now captured industrial production, however, key cities compete to attract knowledge-based industries.

What attracts the educated and the talented to a city? It is quality of life, measured in part by the criteria I have outlined here, not by an alien urban morphology that follows a modernist design ideology. Citizens wish, above all, to enjoy a stimulating and pleasant everyday life, in which normal tasks can be accomplished without too much stress. Their professional activities reside on top of this basis of wellbeing.

Examples abound of intelligent professionals leaving a “magnet” city because everyday life has become too stressful or expensive. Much of this has to do with spatio-temporal scales: in the first case when working and living environments do not offer the biophilic range of scales; and in the second case when daily life is skewed towards uncomfortable time periods, as for example a long commute to work, getting children to school, food shopping, accomplishing regular out-of-house chores, etc.

I realize that the above thesis only presents a small part of a broader scenario, and, given human nature and human interactions, we may live in an earthly paradise and still be stressed from local crime, a corrupt government, or hostile colleagues at work. I do not deny any of that. What I wish to bring to attention is the component that comes directly from architecture and urbanism.

Acknowledgment: This is a second extract from an article originally published in the Athens Dialogues E-Journal, Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies, October 2010; and reprinted by The Permaculture Research Institute, October 2010.


Alexander, Christopher 2001-2005. The Nature of Order, Books 1-4, Center for Environmental Structure, Berkeley, California.

Alexander, Christopher, S. Ishikawa, M. Silverstein, M. Jacobson, I. Fiksdahl-King, and S. Angel 1977. A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, New York.

Drewe, Paul 2005. “Time in Urban Planning and Design in the ICT Age”, in Shifting Sense – Looking Back to the Future in Spatial Planning, edited by Edward Hulsbergen, Ina Klaasen and Iwan Kriens, Techne Press, Amsterdam, pages 197-211.

Fathy, Hassan 1973. Architecture for the Poor, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois.

Hall, Edward T. 1984. The Dance of Life: The Other Dimension of Time, Anchor Books, Garden City, New York.

Newman, Peter and Jeffrey Kenworthy 1999. Sustainability and Cities, Island Press, Washington D.C.

Salingaros, Nikos A. 2000. “The Structure of Pattern Languages”, Architectural Research Quarterly, volume 4, pages 149-161. Reprinted as Chapter 8 of: Salingaros, N. A. 2005. Principles of Urban Structure, Techne Press, Amsterdam, Holland.

Salingaros, Nikos A. 2006. A Theory of Architecture, Umbau-Verlag, Solingen, Germany.

Schrader, Constance A. 2005. A Sense of Dance, 2nd Edition, Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois.

Tinagli, Irene 2005. Understanding Knowledge Societies, United Nations publication ST/ESA/PAD/SER.E/66, New York, New York.

Ward, Victoria and Clive Holtham 2000. The Role of Private and Public Spaces in Knowledge Management,

Whyte, William H. 1988. City: Rediscovering the Center, Doubleday, New York.


Related Posts: Arts and Architecture


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The ‘road ecology’ movement picks up speed

The ‘road ecology’ movement picks up speed

An international conference in Seattle gathers ideas about how roads and the environment interact. One big takeaway: pay more attention to the needs of wildlife to cross the mighty web of roadways.


Posted 26 August 2011, by Douglas B. MacDonald, Crosscut Public Media,


Jones and Jones Architects The Mountains to Sound Greenway.

Cars, traffic jams, cities, transportation, and the environment — political and intellectual territory now so well worn that most of the debating points are rendered in ceaselessly contending code words. Is there any way to make that drone fresher, livelier, broader, and filled with greater sense both of portent and opportunity for the future? Let’s give it a shot.

Peg Owens/Courtesy of Idaho Tourism Highway 12 in Idaho

In 2003 a seminal book, Road Ecology (Island Press), cracked open the door to a much broader vista by asking: What was the relationship between roads and nature itself?  Its lead author was a Harvard School of Design landscape architecture professor, Richard T.T. Forman.  Its topics ran the gamut from how the spacing of roads alters the functioning of natural environments — ecosystems — across entire landscapes to how road noise affects songbird distribution and roadside herbicide use contaminates nearby water.  It addressed roads themselves, not just cars, and rural and natural lands and waters, not just human communities.  It marked and contributed new ways of thinking about transportation systems, their contexts, and their consequences.

Eight years later, Seattle this week has hosted the biennial International Conference on the Ecology and Transportation (ICOET), now the biggest periodic gathering of the road ecology movement. Once this was the transportation sector’s most arcane and even offbeat conference (“Your Ph.D. thesis covers precisely what aspect of lichen reproduction on gravel shoulders?”).  Today the conference has become downright mainstream (right to the cash bar and nibbles-supper at the Seattle Aquarium) for scientists, government officials, and academics represented among 550 registrants including individual presenters from 21 countries.

One of ICOET’s important themes is promoting non-lethal, even peaceful, coexistence between vehicles traveling along roads and wildlife needing to cross them.  This is a critical question for human road safety, species survival, and the very important values of ecosystem biodiversity.  Highways in Florida have jaguar crossings; shoreline roads in Taiwan have crossings for breeding crabs; the new commuter rail line for Cape Cod has 52 crossings for spotted turtles; roads in Queensland are being planned to minimize vehicle strikes on the endangered flightless Southern Cassowary, one of the world’s largest birds. One senses that in not too many years, those imperatives will be regarded as standard operating expectations.

But frontiers of curiosity and concern for nature are constantly expanding.  To graze ICOET, right in Seattle at the Westin Hotel, has been to learn, for example, that researchers studying railroad embankments in Sweden have identified 2,400 species of flora and fauna among which is a critical pollinator, rendered in English as the “Railway Bee,” for supporting agricultural prosperity on adjoining local farmlands. And the Swiss Academy of Road and Transport Experts has just published road ecology manuals for engineers. And the worldwide wildlife community is agonizing over the fate of some of the most important African animal migrations if the international development community should fail in efforts to persuade the government of Tanzania to relocate a proposed road away from most sensitive areas of the Serengeti plain.

Road Ecology author Richard Forman himself, now a bit of an international ecological rock-star (and no stranger to the Seattle area, with a son working locally for that big software company), was a two-day conference drop in.  He was flying back to Boston from Beijing where he had just given the keynote at the first convening of the road ecologists in the Academy of Transportation Scientists at the Chinese Ministry of Transport.  To find his book in the hands of Chinese road engineers, he told me, was his single most delicious delight in watching its influence spread far and wide in the eight years since its publication.

But he worries. Cars manufactured and bought, vehicle-miles-traveled, expressways built — he is amazed at what he has seen in China — are all expanding faster than road ecology thinking.  At an impromptu conference talk, he urged that for protecting landscapes, restating nature, and addressing fossil fuel shortages, elevated personal rapid transit systems should be considered. An example is the new Podcar installation serving Masada Institute of Science and Technology in the United Arab Emirates, along with other possibilities that are often a topic of futurist transportation thinking in tech-savvy environments.


“Connectivity” is one of the buzzwords on the road ecology movement and therein lies the heart of the keeper message for us in Seattle. Our challenge is precisely the challenge the road ecology movement has identified in the realms of habitat, ecosystems, and landscape.  Ultimately, the stakes at play in our transportation debates and policies are the future unique landscape and ecological character of the Puget Sound region.  It is time seriously to reckon with how communities of people now and in the future affect and shape communities of nature and the uses of land and water that are, in the fullest sense of the word, our ecological landscapes.

We have not yet demonstrated the capacity to do this with real results at meaningful scale.  When we shall, we will have begun to discover how shaping our human environments and protecting and preserving Puget Sound, in its panorama of water and watershed, are one and the same problem.

Douglas B. MacDonald served as secretary of transportation for Washington from 2001-2007 and during that time was an ex-officio member of several public and nonprofit boards of directors, including Sound Transit and the Mountains to Sound Greenway. From 1992-2001, he was executive director of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in Boston. Since moving to the Greenwood neighborhood of Seattle in 2007, MacDonald has participated in and commented on a variety of projects and issues involving transportation and transit, land use, and environmental policy. You can reach him in care of

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Score another point for a la carte planning. But the public is rightly incensed about the absence of a regional plan that meshes all the projects, embraces new technology, and actually has a budget.–road-ecology–movement-picks-up-speed/