It must be all the glass-walled, energy sucking urban buildings that finally got us to reflect. Or at least some of us. We cannot continue to build the way we do and expect to sustain our landscapes and environment.
David Orr, the Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, is a well-known environmentalist. He is active in many areas of environmental studies, most notably environmental design. “Factories that produce more waste than product; buildings that squander energy; farms that bleed soil; cities designed to sprawl.” , David Orr suggested that most environmental problems are the result of poor design. About 27 years back in 1996, Orr was at the helm of the construction and design of the first fully green building in America. Built on a college campus, the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies was created to achieve what is called ‘full spectrum’ sustainability.
Replete with solar paneling on the roof, energy-efficient lighting and heating, energy-saving appliances, and geothermal heating and cooling, the facility continues to be the best example of a green building. It contains a ‘Living Machine’ that treats and recycles the building’s wastewater, amongst several other energy-saving and recycling elements. The interiors are made from biodegradable upholstery, recycled beams and plastic chairs, and low-VOC paints and adhesives. The US Department of Energy named the Centre as ‘One of Thirty Milestone Buildings in the 20th Century’.
At the Oberlin College where Orr teaches, he has worked with the community to develop the Oberlin Project, an initiative that is meant to be self-sustaining for many years to come. It depends entirely on renewable sources of energy, has a Green Arts District, a massive green belt for local farming and makes efforts to achieve neutral climate. One of the most important aspects of the Oberlin Project is that it enables Orr’s pet project – a new, integrated approach to academics and education, where principles of ecological awareness are built into what children learn in the regular school curriculums, colleges and vocational training centres. It prepares the next generation for a future of scarcity or at least the ability and knowledge to understand how to cope with and combat it. The sustainable model of the Oberlin Project can be replicated anywhere, so that such a programme need never be limited to one community.
The building that houses the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies and Orr’s Oberlin Project can and have been used as blueprints for green building theories and ideal sustainable communities over several years.
The continuing problem is with commercial money-making ventures duping an under-educated public into believing that any building with a solar panel, provisions for rainwater harvesting and a couple of trees is a green building. It is only with a well-thought-out education system that we can fight self-serving forces and really learn to think and live green.
Either Orr: Green Building For A Sustainable Lifestyle