Integrating Green into Design as Usual

David Bergman looks at green architecture through the dual lenses of architecture and economics.

He majored in both at Yale, then tackled Princeton’s A-school.   He’s been tracking the price of oil and the use of sustainable design ever since.

“When I graduated in 1981, there wasn’t much in environmental design,” he says.  “Oil was cheap.  “By the ‘90s, it was expensive again, and there were new green materials and technologies out there.”

Still, environmental design seemed always to occupy a niche aside from the mainstream.  Now, the author of “Sustainable Design: A Critical Guide” from Princeton Architectural Press says it’s time for the public and the profession to integrate it into everyday design practice.

“Including environmental design doesn’t mean ruining the budget or sacrificing aesthetics,” he says.  “It’s not a separate aspect, but integral – we need to stop niching environmental design in the way we approach design concepts.”

In his book, he encourages the rethinking – of making the distinction between tweaks and innovations.  A tweak might be a more environmentally friendly lawn mower, where an innovation might mean rethinking the idea of a lawn that must be mowed.

He also addresses the concept of regenerative design, an approach to ecodesign that goes beyond sustainability to repair, or regenerate, natural systems.

“A roofing product might take the smog out of the air, and purify the air around a building,” he says.  “It’s a matter not of doing less bad, but of returning the eco system to better state that aids us in flourishing on this planet.”

That’s a far cry from the late-20th century modernists who led us to think we could work without nature as a constraint.  As the 21st century dawned, an understanding of environmental issues advanced, though looked at mostly as being separate and unusual.

These are different times, the author says.

“We’re in a phase now where we need to think of green design as the usual way of doing things, as being broadly incorporated,” Bergman says.  “Now, it’s not an option – it’s something that needs to be almost taken for granted.”

And that would be a brave new world.

For more information, go to

[slideshow id=643]