Collective Food Market

collective food market perspective

collective food market section

This a collective food market, a place where local farmers can bring produce and goods to sell, local people can cook and there is more room to socialize provided than at regular super-market. This makes it a more civic place, instead of solely commercial. Having more social space allows for higher sales and creates a culture of ‘regulars’ who hang out at the market.

Heidegger: A Critique on the Reductive in Architecture

Heidegger: A Critique on the Reductive in Architecture

Jordan Parker Williams

Society, Nature and Technology

Professor Moore

Position Paper 1

(What is so modern about modern technology?)

28 September 2006

A trend in architectural design practice has been mounting since the idea of specialization and industrialization have dominated our society, this trend is reductionism in architecture. Where we don’t worry about the architect’s “caprice of self-centered individualism but [the perceived ‘rationality’] of impersonal regimentation (Mumford). Reductive efficiencies and stark separations often define our ways of life, even if we don’t recognize it as such, because we are deep in the trenches of liberal capitalistic rationality–which relies on logics of efficiencies, not in the physical and mental well-being of humans and the refined sensiblity of sustainability.

  Continue reading Heidegger: A Critique on the Reductive in Architecture

Subverting Suburbia

Next Gen Notables: Subverting Suburbia

“We are keep­ing the baby and we are using the bath­wa­ter to water our garden.”

A published online article about me and some friends getting a notable finish in the 2009 Next Generation Metropolis Magazine Design Competition. Mark Tirpak, who is not mentioned in the article, also helped–he is an urban planner.  Sam Schonzeit did most of the architecture work that I helped do rendering, and John Hart Asher did the landscape design.

Continue reading Subverting Suburbia

Sustainable Technologies: Paradigms and Practices

Sustainable Technologies: Paradigms and Practices


If I was a determinist I would want to know that which often forbids us to talk about what we cannot know.

>Jordan Parker Williams


Society, Nature and Technology

Position Paper II

16 November 2006


Are we a product of technology or is technology a product of humans? The very question itself is based on a false dichotomy.  It is based on a false paradigm or “map of human nature”, that of determinism.  We are a product of neither nature nor nurture; we are a product of choice, because there is always a space between stimulus and response, as we exercise our power to choose based on principles not reactions, the space will become larger.[i] The idea of determinism is deeply embedded into present day culture and has reinforced a culture of victimization because of the terrifying sense that if I do have choice, then I am also responsible for my present situation.  If a person can say I am what I am and I am where I am because I so choose to be there, then that person can realize a statement of:  I choose other wise.  This is an important realization of the human condition, admittedly far too often technologies are marketed with knee jerk responses to their usefulness and seem all too agreeable; but—being human allows  us to choose, even in the most overwhelming politically set trajectories, we have the power to choose.

Commonly in socio-technological studies there are two categories: 1) “technological voluntarist” advocating that social systems shape technologies and humans have a choice, voice, and control over and in technologies and their trajectories and 2) “technological determinist” who believe technology has a set path and inevitable evolution, producing artifacts along the way.

In this position paper I will look at technology through a voluntarist lens to see how sustainable paradigms and practices can evolve and how “reflexive modernization” is best to allow us to evolve to a sustainable future in which our choices in everyday decisions matter.[ii]

Continue reading Sustainable Technologies: Paradigms and Practices

The Ecological Design of Co-housing Power Point


Check out this early Power Point Presentation of my Master of Design Proposal from my research design class ’06 with Dr. Steven A. Moore.

The link above should download a .pdf.

  • Purpose of Research: The aim of this design study is to propose a specific case of co-housing that expands the term to mean cooperative dwellings of human and non-human residents, creating a greater ecological place.This design of co-housing should appropriated to the site as to minimize environmental damage and to enhance what characteristics, qualities and species/beings are present and what could be present (i.e. introducing native speicies, creating architecture that improves the quality of life of future residents).
    • + I see a need to integrate the human environment and nature in development.
    • + Far too often nature is seen as stopping development, how can this be changed?
    • + Concepts of housing like Co-housing are more sustainable and can give residents more control in their built environment. 
What’s the “So What”?
  • Appreciate what we have in terms of “everyday nature”
  • Create more sustainable housing, reflecting and embracing nature can bring inspiration and more livelihood.
  • Benefits of intertwining nature and human development can be better understood.
  • Take ecological design of housing farther than LEED (energy efficiency)
  • Expanding sustainability past the humancondition will create a more sustainable condition

Box Vase

A 4″x14″ box vase that is made from Wenge wood, an exotic handsome dark wood from Africa.  I designed a geometric pattern and cut it out with an ancient CNC router, the “lacing” or tracking of the router blade is parallel with the geometric design creating a stepping finish on the wood–as seen in the pictures.  The darkness of the wood and the ‘complicated-ness’ of the design create a subtle effect.  The box slightly bulges in the middle, giving it entasis–similar to a Greek column–that ‘tricks’ the eye into seeing a more straight and vertical volume.

Messy Landscapes.

Status Quo decisions on landscape, lead to a reduction of biodiversity in the built environment–but it doesn’t have to be this way.  Key choices of species and maintenance routines can enhance wildlife and human connectivity as to increase biodiversity.   More and more uninformed land developers, business owners, property owners, and the economic inertia of “what works” leads to more and more habitat loss, high frequency maintenance (weekly) and upkeep fees.  Despite the dominance of neatness as a form of the care aesthetic, “messy” landscapes look attractive if people know the ecological function of what they are seeing, or if the landscape context indicates that the messy look is intentional.1

entry perspective

Ecosystem Restoration

Ecosystems are complex, fragile, resilient,seasonal and can offer services usually benefiting both humans and non-humans.  Ecological services include production of oxygen from carbon dioxide, pollination of plants, and countless other process that humans have not yet been able to recreate alone.

Ecosystem restoration is ideal for clients of landscape architects, commercial property owners and companies who pay for routine maintenance of turf grass with mowing, edging, and blowing of grass clippings.  These maintenance routines use gasoline/carbon emissions, create non-habitat areas,  produce air pollution with blowers, and create an non-sustainable “aesthetic” linked to the seduction of the American lawn.  Often these mowed lawns areas are never used beyond looking pretty.

Native and Invasive species

When considering what species to plant you can consult your regional wildlife center, wildflower center, or parks and wildlife management organization.  Also regional seed banks have formulas of seed mixtures that can be planted to create wildflowers or an artificial prairie.  Tallgrass restoration can eliminate mowing and weekly maintenance while attracting more desirable species.

Small Scale Landscape Restoration

Wildscapes and backyard wildlife habitats are ideal for residential property owners and home owners. With the intention of linking patches and corridors of habitats we can create a network of habitats.  These can allow displaced species to once again have the ability to inhabit the ‘original’ territories.

wildscape drawing_texas

Aren’t you tired of just seeing grackles, starlings, black birds, crows, pigeons, and buzzards?–these are common signs of a harsh urban landscape–and only these most adapted birds can survive.  Providing food, water, hiding places/cover, native plants and chemical reduction can be the steps needed to create a backyard wildlife habitat and reintroduce new and desired species into your area.

Code compliance

Various ways exist to work around the any infractions or fines that may come with a perceived “unkept” looking lawn.  The certified backyard habitat program allows home owners to create a certified wildscape, that creates habitat for birds and small wildlife, and insects (from the National Wildlife Federation).  This can save a home owner hundreds of dollars a year in mowing fees and create a more pleasant and inspiring landscape.

Applying for a variance to the code of keeping your lawn cut, can solve any city fees and complaints by others. This can be done by simply calling your code compliance office and inquiring about common infractions before it happens to you.

Security and Functionalism

With many companies worried about security, in terms of someone “hiding in the bushes,”  solar landscape lighting can be used to illuminate parking areas.  There are sustainable options that cost little upfront and keep utility bills down, all to create a beautiful landscapes that are MORE functional than the ubiquitous mowed lawns.  Growing food for humans is a way that increases functionality and creates a direct human link to the immediate environment, as well as any active human intervention that increases biodiversity.  Novel landscape designs that improve ecological quality may not be appreciated or maintained if recognizable landscape language that communicates human intention is not part of [that] landscape. 2

Biophilic Landscapes

Integration of human and non-human habitats can create a more pleasant, interesting habitat that signals a love of life or living systems, recognizing deep affiliations humans have with nature that are rooted in our biology.


1. Nassauer, Joan Iverson. 1988. The Aesthetics of Horticulture: Neatness as a Form of Care.  American Society for Horticultural Science. HortScience, vol. 23, no. 6, December 1988, pp. 973-977 <>

2. Nassauer, Joan Iverson. 1995. Messy ecosystems, orderly frames.  Landscape Journal [0277-2426] vol:14 iss:2 pg:161 -170

Approaching Sustainability


On the scale of the building or how humans dwell, we find the scale architecture, where technology can be most blinding. Recently sustainability employed in architectural practice has been a very singular venue via energy efficiency: a science of Btu’s—where design moves and choices are proved only by statistics and green material attributes that may have more statistical weight than substantial effect, meaning the more effective thing to do does not always look good to the economist. In William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s (Cradle to Cradle authors) differencing between eco-effectiveness and eco-efficiency; they describe efficiency as being “less bad” and effectiveness as a strategy that not just avoids environment harm but increases ecological health.1 Environments we create should mimic nature, as working ecosystems. Steven Kellert in his book Building for Life offers this critique, “though admirable, McDonough and Braungart’s concept of ecological health needs to be extended to include a greater emphasis on human experience, incorporating the recognition of how much people’s physical and mental well-being depends on their contact with nature.” 2 Therefore designing a human environment as a working ecosystem is important, as well as designing an environment that brings people closer to nature.

1. William McDonough and Michael Braungart, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things. (New York: North Point Press, 2002).

2.Steven R. Kellert, Building for Life: Designing and Understanding the Human-Nature Connection. (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005).

Ecological Scarcity and Biological Abundance


Architecture will forever be linked to humans; it is part of our cultivation of the earth.   And when we cultivate that earth we are driven by market forces, mainstream notions of sustainable architecture and housing are mostly focused on energy efficient measures, as in, ‘in addition to” what an architect/builder conventionally does, not on how people live.  In Reinterpreting Sustainable Architecture: The Place of Technology, Guy and Farmer write, “typical are suggestions that if we are to achieve sustainable buildings then architec­ture should become more ‘objective,’ and ‘until a consensus is attained, the ability of the architectural community to adopt a coherent environmental strategy, across all building types and styles of development, will remain elusive.” 4


   Attaining a consensus will take time, but I reckon that an overall environmental strategy will come from the need to increase the earth’s ability to process our pollution and impact rather than only conserving resources (energy efficiency).  It will also require humans to be stewards of the earth, propagating nature rather than only being consumers.  The choices in the way we live will carry heavy weight in the health of our biosphere, the ecosystems in it, and the well being of humans and non-humans.

The choice of greater ecological health versus hermetically sealed boxes, seems like a simple choice. Make buildings more green, with nature not marketing.  More and more of our built environments are becoming hermetically sealed boxes rather than integrating connections between people and the natural environment.  Most of these choices are guided by standards to avoid sick building syndrome and create boxes that are energy efficient, due to a mindset of resource scarcity.

Kenneth Framton agrees on such reductionism on our non-place cities/suburbs, where we make spaces and not places, “outside the ‘mass’ engineered somnambulism of the television, we still indulge in the proliferation of roadside kitsch—in the fabricated mirage of ‘somewhere’ made out of billboard facades and token theatrical paraphernalia the fantasmagoria of an escape clause from the landscape of alienation…with ‘newspeak’ overtones, they testify to a fundamental break in our rapport with nature (including our own), they speak of a laying waste that can only find its ultimate end in ourselves.” 5

4. Simon Guy and Graham Farmer, “Re-Interpreting Sustainable Architecture:

The Place of Technology,” in Journal of Ar­chitectural Education 54:3, p 140-148.

Designed Ecosystems

Why ecosystem design?

Green design is everywhere these days, though there is a long way to go before it is the ubiquitous, normal way of doing business that it one day will be. My aim here is to focus on the plain, straightforward meaning of what the words “ecosystem design” imply–the design and building-growing of ecological systems.  “Ecological design” has come be a synonym for green design, covering everything from solar collectors on the roof to sustainably harvested wood for floors. We’ll stick closer to biological systems, not that I have anything against solar collectors. We’ll be exploring the science of ecology–how living organisms organize themselves in space and time–as the basis for design, in John and Nancy Jack Todd’s provocative phrase.

But we won’t be too pure about it. In the broader sense we’ll also cover the design of human habitats as ecosystems, and the “ecology of mind” (Gregory Bateson) that links the natural and human worlds.

note to self: need to proof read

Humans can use the technology they know to create sustainable outcomes that involve not only respect for nature but also a pragmatic action about it, not be afraid to change existing conditions (nature) or develop it into something useful, where the idea of leaving it alone for preservation’s sake can do more harm than good. These statements are rooted in the state of the world as it is now, not in nostalgia for a nature that does not exist. First, Second, Thrid Natures, we have destroyed first, second is all we have left and unless all we want is rats, pigeons, and black birds, we better make better environments.

There becomes an “essential conflict whenever major social changes affect technology” (and nature), yet barriers are dissolved when societies work at solving problems. Andrew Feenburg is helpful to distinguish between economic exchange and technique, when there are times conflict results in an exchange, a trade-off occurs and hierarchies are established; but as Andrew Feenburg states “technical advances are made to avoid such dilemmas by elegant designs that optimize several variable at once,” an ecosystem is such an elegant design, doing many things at once, and helping us solve problems.12

Designed Ecosystems: The Expansionist’s View, Socio-Environmental Aspects in Sustainability…

>Jordan Parker Williams

Society, Nature and Technology

Position Paper III

5 December 2006

In this position paper I am concerned with how the meanings assigned by our culture define social and environmental aspects of sustainability, and how we might begin to redefine the relationship between the two.  First in this position paper I will examine deep ecology vs. shallow ecology: the two in terms of their respective perceptions of “humans vs. nature,” then  address the issue of degradation of the earth via resource scarcity vs. ecological scarcity: how they “frame the problem.” Then look at the “social ecology” of nature, finding a more expansionist view point of sustainability that embraces a view of social and environmental aspects as connected and cooperative. Then proposing humans as “tools of nature,” creating a world where humans can be free to design their ecosystems to be ecosystem-like and ideas of a “perfect untouched nature” do not deter humans from doing so. [1] *

In “Green cities, Growing cities, Just Cities” author Scott Campbell states that planners need to reconcile the conflicting interests of “grow[ing] the economy as a measure to distribute wealth more evenly/fairly, and stop degrading ecosystems.” [2] Oftentimes social and environmental aspects of sustainability tend to not compliment each other, one is traded-in for the other, and it begs the question:  Is there a better way to perceive or handle the two, one that would help in designing our world?  We need to take a look at how to not pit these aspects against each other, changing our views of each and their values that we assign to them could do exactly what Campbell proposes in reconciling conflict.


The environmental or bio-centric perspective that Nature is at the center and humans depend on it for knowledge, inspiration, and survival is representative of a ‘deep ecologist’ view; although this perspective is flawed by its inherent dichotomy—humans and nature, and nature as something unchanging, needing to be preserved.  The social ecologist or “shallow ecology” perspective is that people start from an assumption, often unexamined, that human beings are the central species in the Earth’s ecosystem, and that other beings and parts of systems are of less importance or value.  In its extreme manifestations, shallow ecology views other beings and features of the Earth as resources for human use, and fails to see their intrinsic value or their value to each other.  The dichotomy within each of these view points—that there is separation of nature and humans, flaws there universality and allows for exclusion of one group.  This separating of the groups creates hierarchies within each group, allowing for marginalization of one group over the other, instead of a view of equality and interdependence.


This concept of separation brings question to mainstream sustainability’s energy efficiency foothold, which is based in the idea of resource scarcity for dealing with degradation of the earth.  This is mainly because the resource scarcity viewpoint does not encourage humans to re-describe their role as humans in the environment, in resource scarcity the most eco-friendly person is still a consumer.  However, I do endorse energy efficiency and resource conservation because right now we are having a hard time producing energy (brownouts/increasing energy costs), so yes, I do endorse energy efficiency and resource conservation but we can do more.

By doing more I mean to pay attention to what contemporary design does not, the valuable processes that the bio-sphere of earth give us on a daily basis. This represents another mode in which sustainable design can take a foothold, in ecological systems, designing buildings that are in tune with the environment and actually increase bio-diversity.  This way of building can have a greater affect on our future, because we can always find ways to make more energy–making species and ecological systems is much harder and complex.  Yet the great ecological framework/network in which we lead our lives, is becoming increasingly frail, its ability to regenerate is being damaged by war, consumption, careless design, negativity, etc.

This lack of ability for the biosphere to regenerate itself leads to a lack of the ability to ‘clean’ the earth of toxins, pollutants, carbon absorption, regulate climate–things that we need more of as we produce more impact via pollution, consumption, etc–all ever-increasing.  So what is the problem–that we consume? I think that is a bad way to look at it, since we need to consume to stay alive as humans, rather I think the problem is that we do not understand the value of bio-diversity in our built environment, this is partially because over the years ecosystems have been labeled as messy and challenging (man vs. nature idea, civilization and wilderness concepts–both false dualities).  Further more, the appearance of many indigenous ecosystems and wildlife habitats violates cultural norms for the neat appearance of landscapes, and we fail to recognize the values of producing oxygen, transform nitrogen, creating habitat, and absorbing carbon, toxins, and pollutants.[3] So the problem with consuming is that it usually lowers ecological diversity and creates more pollutants, but what if we had a balanced world, where the pollution created was mediated and filtered by plants and non-humans and ecosystems, then consuming (which we do a good job at) would be more okay.  This implies that the problem is not resource scarcity but ecological scarcity.  We need to create buildings with the mindset of creating ecosystem-like structures and systems that actually increase biodiversity of a locality.[4] This will produce cleaner places for people, a balanced earth–one that has capacity to absorb pollution which is associated with excessive resource exploitation, which in turn re-describes the role of humans in the environment from consumers to nature propagators.


In a speech to the Bioneers in 2000 William McDonough states we should “leave bigger footprints not smaller ones, but our footprints should be wetlands,” this implies how humans can become “tools of nature.”[5] Author Steven Kellert in Building for Life brings another aspect to the concept of ‘doing more,’ where in his critique of resource scarcity he states that stopping degradation of the earth is not enough,  calling out the importance of the relationship between humans and the biosphere, “though admirable, … [the resource scarcity paradigm] needs to be extended to include a greater emphasis on human experience, incorporating the recognition of how much people’s physical and mental well-being depends on their contact with nature.”[6] This pulls its weight from the concept of biophilia hypothesis, which purports that it’s the interaction with nature that proves most beneficial to humans, even if it is just representation of nature, or artificial, or second nature, or third nature;[7] just like Latour’s ANT (actor network theory) whose strength comes from ‘heterogeneously assembled actor networks of human and non-human entities.”[8] Much like Haraway suggests that nature (environmental) and social realms are contingent and artifactual constructions that emerge from the practical interactions of humans and nonhumans in the distributed, heterogeneous work processes of technoscience.’[9]

In The Cultivated Wilderness author Paul Shepheard’s epilogue points to our construction of nature as something separate but reasons that our separation is out of an admiration:

The wilderness is not just something you look at; it’s something you are part of.  You live inside a body made of wilderness material.  I think that the intimacy of this argument is the origin of beauty.  The wilderness is beautiful because you are part of it.[10]

David Demeritt in What is the Social Construction of Nature? refers to many types of view points of nature, Demeritt notes when using the metaphor of the construction of nature “some use it in a nominalist vein to denaturalize ‘nature’ as always conceptually and discursively mediated, others in a more literal, ontologically idealist way to suggest that natural phenomena are literally built by people, while yet others use the construction metaphor to explore the ways that the matter of nature is realized discursively or through networks of practical engagements with heterogeneous other beings.”[11] I would identify with a phenomenological discursive construction where, “we exist primordially not as subjects manipulating objects in the external ‘real’, physical world, but as beings in, alongside and toward the world’, opposed to “merely a descriptive phenomenology concerned with disclosing empirically the preconceptions and social interactions necessary to construct a social problem as such.” [12] This point of view combined with a “seeking to diagnose the effects of those constructions and thereby also to change them”, leads to a phenomenological discursive constructive philosophy.[13]

In Against Nature, Steven Vogel says nature is dynamic and always changing, contrary to the idea of man vs. nature where the idea of preservation is put to the idea of nature, rather than a view point where humans can change nature for the better, using our judgment and choice.  Vogel agrees that humans have responsibility to manage themselves and the earth, the human condition extends beyond being human, “to see socially constructed nature as something for which we are literally responsible.” [14]

In “We have Never Been Modern,” Bruno Latour points out that we have not separated ourselves from nature, our process of ontological being is linked with our politics, nature, and culture; creating a world where we hold nature up not for just being sacred, not for being separate, not for being rare, not for being unchanging, but for being part of us.


There becomes an “essential conflict whenever major social changes affects technology” and nature, yet barriers are dissolved when societies work as solving problems, when these conflicts eventually are resolved.  Andrew Feenburg is helpful to distinguish between economic exchange and technique when resolving conflict he gives the example: when there is an exchange, conflict results in an a trade-off creating hierarchies or an adversarial point of view; but as he states “technical advances are made to avoid such dilemmas (trade-offs) by elegant designs that optimize several variables at once,” an ecosystem is such an elegant design, doing many things at once.[15] Humans can use the technology to create sustainable outcomes that involve not only respect for nature but also a pragmatic action about it, not be afraid to change it or develop it into something useful, where the idea of leaving it alone for preservation’s sake can do more harm than good.   We can design ecosystems to be healthier, more contingent to absorb our pollution and impact on earth.  These statements are rooted in the state of the world as it is now, not in nostalgia for a nature that does not exist.  By re-defining the role of humans in the environment, or shall I say of the environment, from consumers to propagators we can better accomplish our big goals of saving the Earth, by making it a better Earth.

[1] William McDonough, “William McDonough at Bioneers 2000,”, accessed Novemeber 16, 2006.

[2] Scott Campbell,  “Green Cities, Growing Cities, Just Cities: Urban Planning and the Contradiction of Sustainable Development,” in APA Journal (Summer 1996): p 296-312.

[3] Messy Ecosystems,

[4] Ken Yeang, Ecodesign: A Manual for Ecological Design. (London : Wiley, 2006).

[5] William McDonough, “William McDonough at Bioneers 2000,”, accessed Novemeber 16, 2006.

[6] Steven Kellert,  Building for Life: designing and understanding the human nature connection. (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2005): p 96.

[7] Stephen R. Kellert, The Biophilia Hypothesis. (Washington, DC: Island Press, 1993).

[8] David Demeritt, “What is the ‘Social Construction of Nature.’ A topology and sympathetic critique,” in Progress in Human Geography 26 (6): p 767-790.

[9] David Demeritt, “What is the ‘Social Construction of Nature.’ A topology and sympathetic critique,” in Progress in Human Geography 26 (6): p 767-790.

[10] Paul Shepheard, Cultivated Wilderness: Or, What is Landscape? (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press 1997)

[11] David Demeritt, “What is the ‘Social Construction of Nature.’ A topology and sympathetic critique,” in Progress in Human Geography 26 (6): p 767-790.

[12] David Demeritt, “What is the ‘Social Construction of Nature.’ A topology and sympathetic critique,” in Progress in Human Geography 26 (6): p 767-790.

[13] David Demeritt, “What is the ‘Social Construction of Nature.’ A topology and sympathetic critique,” in Progress in Human Geography 26 (6): p 767-790.

[14] Steven Vogel, “Introduction,” in Against Nature: The Concept of Nature in Critical Theory (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), p 1-12.

[15] Andrew Feenburg, “Subversive Rationalization: Technology, Power, and Democracy,” in Technology and the Politics of Knowledge, Andrew Feenburg and Alastair Hannay, Eds., (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1995).

12. Feenburg

What is Bioclimatic Architecture?

What is Bio­cli­matic Archi­tec­ –Pub­lished from this geoc­i­ties site that has been the most infor­ma­tive site on bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture online for years, titled “What is bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture.”  Repub­lished and simplified into a more streamlined ver­sion of the arti­cle here:




bio­cli­matic — of or con­cerned with the rela­tions of cli­mate and liv­ing organisms


What is bio­cli­matic architecture?


Archi­tec­ture that has a con­nec­tion to Nature. Build­ing designs that take into account   cli­mate and envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions to help achieve optimal ther­mal com­fort inside. It deals with design and archi­tec­tural ele­ments, avoid­ing com­plete depen­dence on mechan­i­cal sys­tems, which are regarded as sup­port.  A good example of this is using nat­ural ven­ti­la­tion or mixed mode ven­ti­la­tion. 


Is this new?


No. Many tra­di­tional archi­tec­ture styles work accord­ing to bio­cli­matic prin­ci­ples.  It was not long ago when air con­di­tion­ing was rare and expen­sive, and still is for many places today. Exam­ples of tra­di­tional archi­tec­ture work­ing in this man­ner are often vernac­u­lar arche­types, such as the South­ern ori­ented win­dows in the south of Spain. In these villages nestled into south facing slopes, the use of mate­ri­als with ther­mal mass (such as adobe) with an earth coat­ing of lime on walls in the houses of Andalu­cia cre­ates a sta­ble indoor micro-climate when coupled with loca­tion.


But, does it really work?


Tra­di­tional tech­niques work, and are time tested in many places as they are in Spain. The cool­ness inside a thick-walled tra­di­tional vil­lage house at noon in August, and the com­fort of a tra­di­tional patio in Andalu­cia on a hot day are direct ways to experience these techniques at work. Also, designing with Nature means accounting for multi-seasonal considerations, for example, reducing heating needs with maximum sunlight from Southern ori­ented win­dows. If these techniques have worked for generations in these communities designed for their geographic region, then clearly modern design could benefit from care­ful integration of these traditional principles. It is entirely pos­si­ble to design mod­ern bio­cli­matic hous­ing and archi­tec­ture, using nat­ural ven­ti­la­tion, pas­sive solar design, sus­tain­able materials, and many other traditional site specific techniques.


It works at different scales.


This example also showcases the concept of biomimicry, in which nature is the mentor for the concept of the design. Passive air cooling systems use the physical properties of air density at different temperatures to force air through multiple smaller spaces. The  biomimicry in the case of Eastgate a midrise in Harare, Zimbabwe is the design inspired by passive air cooling in termite mounds.


 eastgate zimbabwe apartment building 


How much does it cost?


The bio­cli­matic house doesn’t need the pur­chase and instal­la­tion of com­pli­cated and expen­sive sys­tems, because it uses the reg­u­lar archi­tec­tural ele­ments to increase the ener­getic per­for­mance and get a nat­ural com­fort. Cost savings begin with designing to maximize the assets of the site. Bio­cli­matic design imposes a set of guide­lines, but there still remains a lot of free­dom to design accord­ing to indi­vid­ual taste. Sit­ing of the build­ing, con­sid­er­a­tion of solar access, col­lec­tion of rain­wa­ter, using ther­mal mass to your advan­tage, cor­rect fen­es­tra­tion and solar shad­ing are all good examples of techniques that can be taken into account when design­ing. The end prod­uct is much more energy effi­cient and in tune with its sur­round­ings and Nature.


Then why is bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture not well known?


Clothes hold much more meaning to us than the need for ther­mal pro­tec­tion: starting sim­ple, but now many original functionality features are lost to the con­cept of fash­ion. Hous­ing, too, means more than the need for a com­fort­able place to live. Like fashion it now often represents a sta­tus sym­bol. As that sym­bol, it must adapt to the estab­lished stan­dards of sta­tus like convenience and leisure, and some­times ignor­ing basic functionalities like the envi­ron­ment (i.e. McMan­sions). Energy sav­ing and tak­ing advan­tage of the sun may not fit into these stan­dards. From this perspective, hav­ing an expen­sive con­di­tion­ing sys­tem to over­heat in win­ter and over­cool in sum­mer every sin­gle space in the house (even if it is sel­dom used) may seem nec­es­sary. The cul­tural iner­tia of the “over­done” is hard to stop, even in the face of Climate Change and the 2008 economic bubble burst. Because right now many still think that consumption is necessary for economic growth, and that model is still working.… and yet energy prices continue to rise and minimum wage continues to flatline.


If consumption is necessary for promotion of economic growth, society, by default then  asso­ciates sav­ing and conserving with dis­com­fort and low sta­tus, and waste with easy liv­ing and pres­tige. It gets the point across about people accustomed to a society of convenience, that sav­ing energy is associated with poverty or somehow “needing” to conserve. What is overlooked in the quest for status however, are modern day benefits and efficiencies that could actually elevate status and be sustainable. Instead, sci­ence is dis­re­garded, global warm­ing is seen to have no real world con­se­quence, energy continues to be wasted, and peo­ple pay and pay with­out real­iz­ing there are ways to regulate the cost and waste associated with their lifestyles. As of now, the eco­nom­i­cal sys­tem needs people to con­sume as much as pos­si­ble so as to keep the wheel going, but can we still attain societal success through techniques for refinement as opposed to expansion?


There are many challenges facing the transition from excessive consumption to a perspective that designing to be more efficient is the new status symbol. Primarily, the pow­ers that be are strong and they have built a legacy they want to con­tinue. Big com­pa­nies (the legacy industries) refuse to inno­vate, and lobby to keep the sta­tus quo. No energy sup­ply com­pa­nies are really inter­ested in new tech­nolo­gies for renew­able energy, instead it’s only the new star­tup companies that tackle the challenge. Necessoty is the mother of invention. To the startup companies, how to increase their ben­e­fits at the site is the equation for success and profit. Selling energy if you are mak­ing your own is an easy way to calculate cost recovery. Or even not needing as much because the house is designed for according to human use and needs at given times of the day, as opposed to having all rooms ready for all possible uses at all possible times. Air con­di­tion­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers aren’t inter­ested in alter­na­tive sys­tems that make their tech­nol­ogy less valuable: nat­ural ven­ti­la­tion does not make money. Why would the pow­ers that be want you to get energy for free when they can charge for it?


Archi­tects and builders often don’t look beyond the success of their busi­ness to promote alternate techniques, and often don’t go through the hassle of introducing something new to the consumer. With no infor­ma­tion on the topic, the consumer can­not demand alter­na­tive prod­ucts that ultimately improve the livability of structures and reduce the waste and expense of resources. Things that in the economic Rational Man Model would be defined as “maximizing and promoting true self interests,” yet it it still remains that there are few elec­tric cars on the streets or solar pan­els on rooftops. Consumers can not make informed decisions without having all of the relevant information to make a truly rational choice.


Slowly, new pro­grams, smart com­pa­nies, eco cit­i­zens are becom­ing aware of the energy waste prob­lem, and things are babystep­ping forward–promoting research on the topic and gen­er­at­ing new leg­is­la­tion and stan­dards. For exam­ple, some­thing as sim­ple as good insu­la­tion in build­ings to keep heat inside is a topic for leg­is­la­tion of increas­ing impor­tance. And in a lot of coun­tries insti­tu­tions ( are appear­ing to per­form research and spread bio­cli­matic knowl­edge among archi­tects and builders (like CIEMAT in Spain). Hun­dreds of books have been writ­ten on the topic, and hun­dreds of projects related somehow to bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture have been imple­mented around the world, and slowly it takes hold.


Basic Concepts and Techniques

Bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture deals exclu­sively with build­ing design and mate­ri­als to achieve energy effi­ciency.


* Pas­sive solar architecture.

It refers to hous­ing design for the effi­cient use of solar energy. As it doesn’t use mechan­i­cal sys­tems (thus the term pas­sive), it is closely related to bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture, though the later also deals with other non-solar cli­matic ele­ments. That’s why the term bio­cli­matic is a little bit more gen­eral, and inclu­sive, although both work in the same direction.

* Active solar architecture.

It refers to tak­ing advan­tage of solar energy by the means of mechanic and/or elec­tric sys­tems for heat­ing (solar col­lec­tors) and elec­tric con­ver­sion (pho­to­voltaic pan­els). They may com­ple­ment a bio­cli­matic house and off­set energy loads of the building’s users.

* Renew­able energy.

Sources of energy that can­not be exhausted. Bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture incorporates solar radi­a­tion (renew­able) for heat­ing and cool­ing. Other kinds of renewable ener­gies include as wind or water (hydro), and methane gen­er­a­tion from organic waste (biomass).

* Sus­tain­able architecture.

This is a very gen­eral con­cept aim­ing to a min­i­mum envi­ron­men­tal impact of all the processes implied in build­ing, from mate­ri­als (man­u­fac­tur­ing processes that don’t pro­duce toxic waste and don’t con­sume much energy), build­ing tech­niques (for a min­i­mum envi­ron­men­tal dam­age), build­ing location/siting and its envi­ron­men­tal impact, energy con­sump­tion and its impact, and the recy­cling of mate­ri­als when the build­ing has accom­plished its func­tion and is demol­ished. Bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture is helps reduce the energy con­sump­tion of the build­ing is in use, and can be enhanced when coupled with sustainability architecture techniques.

* Self-sufficient house.

Refers to a house inde­pen­dent from cen­tral­ized sup­ply net­works (elec­tric­ity, gas, water, and even food), accomplished by use of locally avail­able resources. Examples include, water from wells, streams or rain, energy from the sun or the wind, elec­tric­ity from the sun, food from orchards, producing enough energy to not need the grid, etc. Bio­cli­matic archi­tec­ture coop­er­ates with self-sufficiency regard­ing energy sav­ing for climatization.



BioclimaticX Philo

At Bio­cli­mat­icX we strive to look at build­ings as part of Nature, as humans are intertwined with their environment. Together they can cre­ate a syn­ergy that will increase efficiencies of systems and reduce negative impacts of development. Designing with nature can lower energy bills, increase indoor air qual­ity, and increase pro­duc­tiv­ity of the build­ing and the inhab­i­tants. We enthu­si­as­ti­cally embrace a recon­struc­tion of nature, just as we would embrace ‘the real thing. ’ Humans have a strong pro­cliv­ity to Nature. By guid­ing the design process with a sus­tain­able approach that reduces over­all envi­ron­men­tal impact and inte­grat­es ‘recon­struc­tions’ of nature, we achieve a prod­uct that gives peo­ple a new per­spec­tive on ‘Nature’ and ’systems-thinking’ and ‘ways of liv­ing.’ As designers, or just as humans, we are stew­ards of the earth. We draw from the fields of bio­philia, bio­cli­matic design and archi­tec­ture, perma-culture, hor­ti­cul­ture, land­scape archi­tec­ture, genet­ics, hydro­pon­ics, aqua-ponics, and many others. The end result are sites and structures existing harmoniously optimized within their environment and operating at maximum efficiency. The unique geography of each site is translated into the site-specific techniques to ensure humans and their structure will best fit for resource use efficiency and inhabitant livability.  Grow­ing food and generating electricity on site are excellent techniques, but beginning the site plan design with maximization of these two techniques shows how to fully optimize human and nature integration. Houses built into the side hills in the South of Spain incorporate building techniques that are suited specifically for the unique geography of the community. The architectural techniques are most successful when the site and surrounding community are incorporated into the design.   Working to create a more sus­tain­able lifestyle for 100% of Human­ity.