Science + Design

As a former molecular biology major, and as someone with a passion for science, I have enjoyed our studies on biomimicry the most, by far.

As I was once guilty of, many people tend to put “sustainability,” as a concept, into a box. Before learning about biomimicry, I viewed sustainability as this concept that only relied on innovation and moving forward, but by utilizing some processes that have already been established in nature for years and is proven successful, we can achieve a sustainable outcome just as successful as generating an innovative and new concept would bring.

For a while, I was torn between design and scientific study, because I love both fields and I am passionate about both built environments and about nature, but they seem to be so distant from one another. I am excited to be shifting my perspective into one that sees the natural world as a guide for creating and designing buildings and interior environments. I am realizing now that following a design path does not mean foregoing the study of nature and science, but instead, means pursuing both simultaneously. I realize that I cannot start by changing the industry, but I can start by changing my own lifestyle and set an example for my peers.

In class, our professor introduced us to a carbon footprint exam. I scored a 21, which is surprisingly below the national average. I do live a somewhat minimalistic lifestyle compared to many of my friends and family, but I still drive an SUV, commute back and forth weekly, and I don’t even recycle. It was comforting and encouraging to know that I was below the U.S. average, but then I looked right below that and saw the average score for a human being on our planet…5.5. Me, at 21, was encouraged, while the rest of the world is scoring a 5.5!

I may be lower than the U.S. average, but that does not count for much, and I aim to see through a global perspective, as that’s the direction our industry is headed.

Now, the breakdown of my score:
Home Energy: 53.5%
Driving & Travel: 39.2%
Recycling & Waste: 4.5%
The rest are just small fractions, so I want to focus on the two biggest areas of waste due to my lifestyle: home energy and travel.

It is not surprising to me that home energy took the largest chunk out of my score, since I am well aware that about 70-80% of the world’s energy is due to the building industry. I have already taken some steps to reduce this portion of my waste and energy usage for the future by planning on living in a tiny home. It is a recent dream of mine to build my own tiny house and live as minimally as possible, and one of my goals post-graduation is to begin the planning process for designing and building my own tiny home. I hope, then, to inspire others to follow by taking small steps of their own and maybe even one day to build their own small house for their families. It does get hard in college to reduce your household energy because you aren’t just living on your own (usually). I have two roommates, and we pretty much all agree on one set temperature and living environment because we are all content with that setting.

Finally, we discussed industrial ecology in our class these past few weeks, which has been a learning experience that will be extremely valuable when designing in the future. As an interior design student, I am always concerned for the building industry and factors that influence it, but also other industries and how they interact with the building industry. Because the building industry is so heavily influenced by all other industries, especially in commercial design where you are working for education industries, healthcare industries, retail industries, and etc., it is crucial to have at least a basic understanding of industrial ecology. Once we have a basic understanding of all of these other industries mentioned previously, we can comprehend the flow of energy and materials within those industries and how they interact with the energy and material usage and need in the building industry, and can work on a process which minimizes waste and destruction of the earth’s resources. It all sounds so complicated, but all it takes is one small change after another.

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