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Building Deeper Green: Reframing Sustainability

Bill Reed & John Boecker Radio Show

A forum for exploring the bridge from green building practices to sustaining life.

If you save the living environment it automatically will save the physical environment. If you just save the physical environment (as we’ve come to understand it), we’ll lose both.
E.O. Wilson (Wilson’s Law)

A forum for exploring and deepening our understanding of what we call sustainability, through the access point of green building. This requires a “re-membering” – acknowledging that humans are nature and discovering how we can better engage in the mutually beneficial interrelationships between all living and earth systems. Doing so will enable us to discover patterns of health that reveal the means by which to heal the environment and ourselves.

Sustainability is ultimately about sustaining all life. The current trend of making buildings, cars, light bulbs, products and processes more efficient is simply the beginning point for achieving this goal. In order to truly achieve sustainability for ourselves and the other species on this planet, we will need to redevelop a conscious connection with and understanding of the whole system of life-enhancing processes that shape the habitats within which we live. We must reintegrate our building—and our communities—with life on Earth.

The process of creating our shelter, producing our food, provisioning our water, and harnessing our energy has tremendous impact on planetary health. The corollary is also true; the act of connecting and building can become an act of healing and regenerating the community of life. In other words, learning how to sustain our communities can be a re-membering and rebirth of consciousness – an understanding that humans are not separate from nature. In recognizing that we are members of the same system that contributes to, is subject to, and forms the whole Earth system, we can begin to discover patterns that will help us contribute to healing of the whole — “wholing”.

This program introduces the philosophical underpinnings of such a design approach, and supports the theoretical with very practical concepts and examples of integrating technical and living systems through a deep understanding and application of life’s principles and patterns. Surprisingly, this is not as hard as it may seem; but it represents a real change in the way we think, build, and live on this planet. It requires a reawakening of what is means to develop – that is to say, in its literal meaning, to create new potential.

Whole system thinking begins as we shift our role from conserving nature to re-membering humans as part of nature, thereby developing new purpose within ourselves.

Intended Audience:
Everyone… The healthy evolution of our planet requires all of us to be engaged in thoughtful and conscious design. We are starting this dialogue from the perspective of architecture — the process of visioning a new world and developing the blueprints to manifest it. We are all co-designers.

Listen to EpisodesAiredDownload
1. What are Green Buildings?12 June 2009mp3
2. The Two Paths of Systems Thinking19 June 2009mp3
3. What does it mean to sustain life?26 June 2009mp3
4. Habitat: How can we create healthy Habitat?03 July 2009mp3
5. Water: How do we care for Water?10 July 2009mp3
6. Energy: Is sustainability all about Energy?17 July 2009mp3
7. Materials: Is life cycle assessment the holy grail?24 July 2009mp3
8. What is the fifth universal element?31 July 2009mp3
9. Reflections and Stories07 August 2009mp3
10. How sustainable is our food?14 August 2009mp3
11. How can development be used to understand and sustain life?21 August 2009mp3
12. How can we sustain sustainability?28 August 2009mp3
13. How do we inspire change?04 September 2009mp3

To elicit knowledge and understanding by delving deeper into whole-ing and healing through inner and outer development, right and left brain integration, and living and technical pattern insights, in a way that brings out our individual essence and purpose, enlivening and enriching who we are and uncovering our true potential, so that we consciously evolve, heal, and become whole again.

We, Bill and John, are both architects and long time advocates of sustainable design practices. We’ve observed that the design and other professions are increasingly engaged in more and more sophisticated technological solutions to the planet’s problems — without significant progress and benefit. It has become apparent that these ‘solutions’ are responding to the symptoms of the problems — not the real issues. These real issues are the fractured relationships between people and the web of life; the awareness of the commons; and our responsibility to take care of each other. In other words, we have grown unconscious of the whole inter-related system of life.

This is hands-on practical work. It is as real as an energy model or recycling and by giving equal focus to both physical and invisible relationships is how we become whole. In fact, the only way we will ever achieve a sustainable condition – a vital, thriving, healthy living system — is to begin the journey of delving deeper — re-membering humans as part of nature.

The purpose of Delving Deeper is to consciously practice becoming whole — this means becoming aware of how to take care of and love ourselves, our communities, and our planet.


Episode 1- What are Green Buildings?

Green buildings are promoted by many practitioners as a way to achieve sustainability; in fact, they are a way to work towards a sustainable condition but a building by itself can never be sustainable.

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Episode 2- The Two Paths of Systems Thinking

We engage systems every day - electrical systems, water systems, transportation systems, and so on. When we think about the need to address more complex living systems such as food, habitat, and social systems, the ability to understand and resolve all these issues together seems insurmountable.

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Episode 3- What does it mean to sustain life?

We generally think of humans as separate from nature, but to create a truly sustainable condition, it will be necessary for us to shift our mental model to one that acknowledges all of life as an integrated whole system. Just as plants and bees have roles, humans also have roles in sustaining the web of life.

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Episode 4- Habitat: How can we create healthy Habitat?

We use a number of terms to describe how we, as a culture, work with the environment; the terms we choose imply how we are in relationship with it. We use words such as high performance, conservation, restoration, and regeneration in an attempt to try clarifying the vaguely defined concepts of ecological and sustainable design.

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Episode 5- Water: How do we care for Water?

Agua es vida. The Spanish expression, ‘water is life’ is simple and direct. Yet in western civilization we use water with little understanding of its source or value; rather, we use it to flush away our waste, treating it as a waste product. With .7% of the world’s water in potable form, we can no longer afford to take it for granted.

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Episode 6- Energy: Is sustainability all about Energy?

Our buildings produce 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions as a result of their energy consumption, thereby contributing more to climate change than either industry or transportation. Yet we continue to design buildings that waste energy.

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Episode 7- Materials: Is life cycle assessment the holy grail?

A more sophisticated approach asks designers to compare the environmental impacts of materials form “cradle to grave”, such as quantifying the energy embodied in these materials from mining, manufacturing, transporting, installing, maintaining, and disposing of these materials at the end of their useful life. Tools for such life cycle assessment, or LCA, are emerging.

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Episode 8- What is the fifth universal element?

The last four episodes explored: Habitat, Water, Energy, and Materials. These four key subsystems correspond to the four elements of Alchemist tradition: Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. Eastern philosophy includes a fifth element: Akasha – space, spirit, or consciousness.

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Episode 9- Reflections and Stories

We reserved this episode to reflect on and tie together the preceding episodes. Each of our guests has provided us with a window or access point into understanding elements of the whole system. On a deeper level, they have helped us understand that we cannot create new potential in the world without creating new potential in ourselves.

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Episode 10- How sustainable is our food?

What is the nature of connection, then, between human development, buildings, and our “fooding” systems, including agriculture? How are we degrading our food resources and what can we do about it?

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Episode 11- How can development be used to understand and sustain life?

The term “development” is generally applied to “adding value” to a place through building; most often this value is conceived in economic gains alone. What happens when we extend this idea of adding value to include the health of all living systems?

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Episode 12- How can we sustain sustainability?

After all the work we do to create green buildings and communities, what happens when the “experts” leave the job? Whatever level of environmental performance is achieved, the physical systems begin to break down.

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Episode 13- How do we inspire change?

How do we elicit internal change in order to more effectively create external change?

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