Letter from the Editor: inspirational design

Companies can be at one with the natural world and at the same time increase their profits, says a truly inspiring architect who not only preaches the zero waste philosophy, but also makes it happen. Many of the world’s largest corporations have already saved millions of dollars through his designs.

Environmental terminology is much like computer products – by the time people have started to appreciate them they’re out of date. So it seems with the ‘triple bottom line’ and ‘sustainable development’. They are already obsolete, superseded by the triple ‘top’ line – integrating benefits to the environment and society at the outset, according to architect William McDonough, described by Time magazine as a ‘hero for the planet’.

Once you have heard McDonough talk, government and corporate attempts to merely reduce emissions seem outdated. As McDonough says, if you wish to go to Cornwall and you find yourself on the motorway travelling at 120mph towards Manchester, it does nothing for your cause if you slow down to 20mph. You have to stop and turn around.

Fortunately, McDonough isn’t the only person to have recognised the need to turn around and head back to Cornwall. This week, the Environment Agency has called for all those involved in urban regeneration to integrate social and environmental sustainability at the design stage. According to Agency Chairman Sir John Harman, a high quality environment has a considerable capacity to generate jobs and tackle social inequality.

In the Basque region of Spain, the ‘triple top line’ journey begins at an early age. The Basque Energy Board and the Department of Education are fitting 170 schools with solar panels in order to promote the benefits of renewable energy to their pupils, and to sell the excess electricity back to the national grid.

This week, edie also reports on a number of new technologies that could contribute to the triple top line. How about nanotechnology that offers cleaner, safer and more competitive production processes using fewer and less toxic resources? Or fuel cells that run on sugar? It’s now even possible to manufacture solar cells on the surface of the moon from lunar soil.

I have a couple of week’s holiday coming up soon and I’m thinking of changing my plans and heading for Cornwall. But perhaps I should go by train.

Kind regards

Helen André


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