Thursday, May 1, 2008

Man with Nature, not Man over Nature

If Mother Nature gives you a tree, enjoy the shade.

How many times have we seen a beautiful piece of land clear cut and flattened to make way for a new building project? One day - a beautiful forest. Next day, it looks like a World War 1 battlefield. Ouch!

And how many new developments are named after the unique natural landform that was destroyed in the process? In Hattiesburg Mississippi, once-natural Turtle Creek flows through a big concrete pipe buried under – you guessed it - Turtle Creek Mall.

Now I'm not at all against new development. In fact, I am very much in favor of new building projects, especially when I’m designing them. (An Architect against development is like a priest who doesn't believe in God). New projects on a beautiful piece of land are exciting and full of ultimate potential – for good or for bad.

Many developers I’ve met think this way: Step 1 – clear the site, Step 2 – decide what to build, Step 3 – build it. I call this process “Fire, Ready, Aim!” Exactly backwards.

But in the green ethic, the land tells us what to do, not the other way around. It’s not an either/or proposition when it comes to development versus sustainability. Both can coexist when holistically planned.

Preserve unique landforms and look for ways to create a relationship between those natural amenities and the built environment. The goal is to create a dynamic balance between manmade and natural. Integrate the new with the natural and new opportunities to passive environmental control; a healthy patch of deciduous trees can drastically reduce the energy cost of cooling during a hot summer if the new building is oriented properly. And what a view!

So it’s, Man with Nature, not Man over Nature.


Anonymous said...

So very true. Also, after the economy reversal our hyper-development will leave us with plenty of rentable space.

James Polk said...

Adaptive re-use is very green. Recycle the whole building for a new function.

Anonymous said...

James, I agree. Problem is when one big-box is built next to an old one because of the relatively inexpensive cost of doing to compared to other options. I'm really thinking about in-line space and big-box; but with the latest news on the number of empty homes in this country i believe one could compare the housing market also. When I do move from this home I WILL NOT build new (especially on green patch) or open a business in a new space if used, empty is available.