Ask not what your design can do for the environment.
Ask what the environment can do for your design.
Blasphemy? Not at all. Why is the 'green' discourse almost entirely about what materials we can stick onto our designs that will be better for the environment? The aim so often is literally to not change the design, but to use better materials. The designs and forms we are fighting tooth and nail for are nothing but vestiges of the industrial revolution, developed within a mindset of humanity overcoming the savageries of nature.
There are new and exciting books and studies on designing to not rely on air conditioning and the importation of tons of materials from the other side of the globe. Unfortunately they are nothing but old news, simply scratching the surface of the construction knowledge humankind had developed over thousands of years. Through 99% of our history, everything was built from local materials, and designed to respond to airflow, sun, rain, wind, latitude, the fabric of their community, and a litany of other such factors. That knowledge is largely lost.
As our view of nature is changing to one of true stewardship (sustainability), we now have a golden opportunity: we can make any form we can imagine. Our ancestors never had this. As much as their designs were optimized for their environment, they were very severely hamstrung by engineering and materials. We can design and build anything, so let's take these 'new' books and studies, add a dose of digital environmental modeling, a whole lot of lateral thinking, and unleash a brilliant new architectural movement to define the beginning of the 21st century!
Jenda Michl 12.17.08