Sustainable Design

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Janine Benyus, President, Board of Directors, Biomimicry Institute

Ted Simons: This week at the green build conference a lot of folks will learn about the benefits of building green. But for many of the valley's design practitioners, sustainability is already a cornerstone of their daily efforts.

Janine Benyus: Sustainable design, whether it's the design of products or buildings or whole cities, is trying to create human artifacts that not only don't do damage but that actually contribute, that enhance places. That's the goal.

Mike Sauceda: Janine Benyus is a biologist who looks to nature for design inspiration. She is part of a growing effort to change the way we build and make things, using a sustainable approach that minimizes negative environmental impacts.

Janine Benyus: Our society I think has woken up to the fact that our attempts, while some of them are absolutely miraculous, others have not turned out so well. If we're overusing scarce materials, that's going to catch up with us, as well. If our products are manufactured in a really energy intensive way, that's going catch up, as well. We need completely novel new solutions.

John Kane: Sustainable design is a lot of things to different people and it's been around for a while. There's many facets to it. In our world it is about designing appropriately to the place. Across the country architects will design buildings differently based on the natural environment. Obviously in this location we have extreme heat, so it's really important in terms of orientation, shade and insulating play a really important role.

Mike Sauceda: Like a growing number of architecture firms, they are experiencing an increased demand for projects that demonstrate sustainable practices. An important hallmark of this is recognition for the U.S. Green Council for energy and environmental design LEED certification.

John Kane: LEED certification is quite wonderful. We're realizing that tenants are looking for buildings that have LEED certification. We are considering how to minimize energy a building uses - how do we deal with the sites, dust, water, air quality, light and views. It's a myriad of objectives, it's kind of a format. Depending on how many points you get, it will determine your level of LEED qualifications. The Tempe Transportation Building was designed for a LEED platinum. It was designed to actually use 50% less energy than a normal building, a really exciting thing.

Mike Sauceda: Landscape architects are also incorporating sustainability into their design process. In the arid southwest this approach can produce a variety of benefits.

Christine Ten Eyck: Our scarcity of water, the intense heat that we have, all the people that are moving here, it's imperative that we find a better way to build. There are lots of things we could be doing to make use of the plants, trees, that help with the cooling effect, the shade they provide. They also filter pollutants from the air, create oxygen. They are just wonderful filters. Water is going to be one of the biggest issues, if not the biggest issue of the world. In our work we do everything we can to harvest every drop of it. Water is precious. It's all-important.

Mike Sauceda: Another important goal of sustainable landscape architecture is to provide healthy outdoor environments for those who live and work in urban areas.

Christine Ten Eyck: There is a huge body of research that shows that people with deep interactions with a city that's balanced with green and nature and the urban parts, where they coexist, these people are healthier. That, to me, is sustainability.

Mike Sauceda: Sustainable design is also playing an increasingly important role in the development of new products. At ASU, the innovation space program is demonstrating to help students realize how their efforts have a meaningful impact on society.

Prasad Boradkar: Sustainability has to be thought of through the entire design process. If you think of the product development cycle, we start with the definition of the problem and end up with a tangible product at the end. In the early stage of the research we use a model of innovation that asks a few key questions. What's valuable to the users, what's desirable for the corporation? What's good for society and what's good for the environment. As a student, develop and evaluate the ideas. We ask those same questions again.

Mike Sauceda: More and more businesses are discovering the many benefits of sustainable design. One approach growing is biomimicry.

Prasad Boradkar: The methodology they use is to look at nature, see how nature has solved problems. Design has a lot to do with trial and error. You design something, see how it works. Some things work, some things fail. Nature has been doing this for millions of years. Some things nature has perfected we can learn from and incorporate into the design process.

Janine Benyus: Basically it's looking to nature for inspiration, for instance, there's a project that is searching for a new way to adhere based on how geckos adhere. They are these little lizards that are able to crawl up the ceilings and walls. They stick to the wall not with glue, but with millions of little bristles. These interact with the charges on the wall surface and they are able to stick and then release, stick and then release. People are trying to copy that in a gecko tape. This is a different kind of inspiration.

Mike Sauceda: Throughout the design world the principles of sustainability began to embrace the belief that our present-day needs can be met without compromising the well-being of future generations.

John Kane: From the standpoint that we're part of the bigger community, people are starting to take note. It is happening, but it takes one project at a time. I think as one project completes it becomes a great example that others can learn from. We don't have to change the world overnight, it's just one project at a time.

Ted Simons: Coming up on "Horizon," a conversation with Arizona veterans Rick Romley and Bob Ashby, and the award-winning sustainable design of a Tempe transportation center, Wednesday at 7:00 on "Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thanks for joining us. You have a great evening.

Janine Benyus:President, Board of Directors, Biomimicry Institute;

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