As the sustainable revolution motors along, I can’t help but wonder why it is taking so long to really catch on. What is holding back people like you and me and our neighbors from making it a priority? I don’t mean buying recycled paper towels. This, while helpful, slightly more expensive and a little less effective on spilled juice, is definitely not going to save our planet from deforestation. That needs to happen at a larger-scale. Rather, I’m interested in what is keeping us from becoming completely and personally invested in one of the most critical, watershed moments of our time? Is convenience really the only governing force driving our responsible or destructive habits? Maybe. But I’m inclined to think that we may actually be suffering from a disconnect that started when humans moved into cramped, urban living situations that were both destructive to the environment and tended to alienate us from nature. But the green revolution is changing all that right? Maybe.
It took us a relatively short period of time to realize that there was something missing in these dark, concrete jungles and homogeneous, sprawling suburbs. And we are still trying to understand what that something is. I believe we unknowingly longed for our previous love affair with nature, a relationship that was readily available yet taken for granted before urban expansion. Luckily, we’ve gained some perspective on what not to do when designing homes, suburbs and cities, so now, it’s time to fall back in love with nature, literally. Harvard professor Edward O. Wilson who coined the term “biophelia”, which literally means love of living systems, believes our emotional and psychological connections with nature are a result of biological evolution and that there may be more at play with our affinities than previously thought. In this post I’ll outline a few reasons why biophilic design may not only positively affect our well-being, but may also affect our bottom line.
We all accept that any home built before 1980 probably consumes energy rather than produces. And we know that most buildings today aren’t much better. Some dabble in industry-tested, user-approved microcosms of water conservation and energy production, and even fewer have thrown away the sound bites of “first cost” and “investment return” and have dove head first into responsible yet expensive net zero homes. Interestingly, The Center for Green Buildings and Cities at Harvard is exploring a strategy that may end up making a huge difference in the average home owner’s ability to achieve energy and water independence. They are currently experimenting with retrofitting a pre-1940’s home to attain net zero. The measures for success will be varied and at this point will still act as a testing grounds for possibilities.