I would define sustainability as being neutral with our environment. We need to leave as little a footprint as possible, with the goal being to leave no footprint at all. In regards to sustainable design we need to be making sure that the materials we are specifying are rapidly renewable, come from local sources, and have a cradle-to-cradle life cycle. This means that instead of focusing only on the budget of our projects we need to be aware of where all of our materials come from, what they are made of, the processes used to make the product, how the materials will get from one place to another, what chemicals are put into the product to make sure that they are sealed off and finished, and how to dispose of the product.
I think that the way I conceptualize these concepts is definitely different now than the way that I would have before this class. My perception of sustainability and sustainable design was limited to recycling and the use of natural light. I thought that if you sprinkled a recycling bin under the kitchen counter or around an office space and used lots of natural light in your design then that made your project sustainable.
I have had one epiphany. My epiphany was during the biomimcry lecture part of this course. This was also my favorite part of this course. I learned two things. I learned one about myself, and one about biomimcry that I didn’t already know. I had heard of biomimcry before, but I thought that it only had to do with the built environment of design. I thought that the only aspect of biomimicry was that if you saw something aesthetically in nature that was inspirational, you could use that in your design as a shelf or some other architectural feature in your space. I had no idea that the subject ran so deep into biology and chemistry and so many other things. I learned that by studying the tiny, tiny details in nature, no matter what it is that you are looking at, you will learn something useful, and quite possibly something that will be a solution to a great problem. These solutions are sustainable in that they use the example of nature and imitate the way that nature does it. Everything that comes to the natural world through biology is sustainable. This means that when we imitate nature, our solutions will be more sustainable, and probably better than anything a person or team could come up with on their own without the example from Mother Nature. I learned about myself that I am more interested in biology than I thought I was. I say this because I always thought of science as my enemy, and I never identified myself as a person who was even remotely interested in biology. So that was new for me.
The things that I learned this semester were definitely relevant to my professional career. I know that in my jobs to come I will be using the information learned in sustainability to help solve problems for team projects and use the knowledge to back up my design decisions. The Cradle-to-Cradle aspect was definitely something that I will take away from this course and use in my career as an Interior Designer. When selecting materials I can evaluate how a material will go through its lifecycle and where it will end up to determine whether it is worthwhile to use in a space.
Knowing what I know now, I definitely will be investing time in learning more about biomimcry. I would like to maybe even pair up with my sister, who is studying botany, to find new and interesting things about the natural world. I may even go through a course to get my certification. I think that everything I expected from this course is what we learned about. As I mentioned, at the beginning of this course I was wondering how we were going to spend a whole semester on recycling and natural light implementation.
I have to say that I did enjoy this class more than I thought I would, and that I learned about things that I never knew existed. This class was definitely worth taking.