John A. Walker argues that designers must undertake an ecological role. Arguably, humanity is re-designing the planet Earth every hour of every day, either deliberately by rational planning or inadvertently with billions of unconsidered actions, and in the main ruining it. We all carry a responsibility for the destruction and therefore we all need to mend our ways, but of course some groups within society have more power than others to take remedial action: engineers, architects, planners and designers for instance. If they became pro-active rather than re-active, they could play a crucial role: their skills, imagination and ingenuity could help preserve the planet for future generations.
"Green" or "ecological design" is one positive response to the environmental crisis. It can be defined as any design or planning taking account of ecological principles such as the reduction of pollution, sustainable growth, recycling, energy efficiency and conservation of scarce resources. Green design results in fewer goods, smaller goods, or products made from environmentally friendly materials, that are cleaner, quieter and longer lasting or biodegradable.
Green design can be traced back to the 1960s when concern for the environment burgeoned and when an interest developed in alternative sources of energy and in ecological architecture. Certain architects in Europe and North America began to envisage self-sufficient, self-servicing houses. The aim was to design a house largely, but not totally, independent of public mains supplies by exploiting ambient energy sources—solar radiation, wind power—and by recycling techniques—using rainwater, human waste to produce gas for cooking or as a fertilizer.
The projects included Graham Caine’s "ecological house" which he built in South London, the "autonomous house" built by Jaap t’Hooft at De Kleine Aarde in Holland, and the "autarchic house" research project undertaken at Cambridge by Alexander Pike. The latter concentrated...
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