For this, I have to crib my answer from Bill Browning, CEO of Terrapin Bright Green, as I recently asked him the same question and he nailed it: The concepts of biomimicry and ecological history. The former refers to the practice of learning from nature and imitating its designs and processes to solve modern problem. Can building material be created and structured to mimic the light-weight strength of a spider web, can the design of a termite nest teach us how to better ventilate a building, or can plants teach us how to clean water without using chemical processes? The latter refers to the idea of tracing the environmental history of site to see how future development can move toward returning the environmental impact of the site back to its more natural, undeveloped state.
What's something that most people just don't understand about your area of expertise?
That focusing on the environment is just a do-good, touchy-feely initiative. A well-designed building can cost less to operate and may reduce employee absenteeism and increase productivity. It is smart business.
What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the sustainability world?
The growing importance of the post-occupancy performance of buildings. It's one thing to design and construct a building, and another to operate it continually to meet -- and, ideally, exceed -- performance targets.
What's a sustainability trend that you wish would go away?
The idea that green design cannot be great design and vice versa. There should no longer be a viable excuse for not combining sustainability and outstanding aesthetics and function in any space.
What's an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
LEED certification. The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system was -- and continues to be -- a game changer for many reasons. It certainly deserves the recognition it has earned, but as it is the most well-known marker for discussing green building, it can be easy to get sidetracked by certification levels, instead of looking at the entire building and digging into individual attributes. I get a lot of pitches for projects that are LEED certified or LEED Silver, without any specific explanation as to what the designers have done to address environmental performance.
Who are three people or organizations that you would put in a Hall of Fame for your field?
Janine Benyus of the Biomimicry Guild and Biomimicry Institute. Quite simply, her work is amazing and am I pretty much spellbound every time I hear her speak. A true inspiration.