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The Philosophy of Sustainable Design by Jason F. McLennan Review by: Susan D. Bronson APT Bulletin, Vol. 36, No.

4 (2005), p. 56 Published by: Association for Preservation Technology International (APT) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40003166 . Accessed: 05/11/2013 23:27
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Jason R McLennan. The Philosophy of Sustainable Design. Foreword by Bob Berkebile.Kansas City, Mo.: Ecotone, 2004; 324 pp., color and black-and-white photographs, black-and-whitediagrams, clothbound. ISBN 0-9749033-0-2. $29.95. Jason R McLennangrew up in Sudbury,a mining community in northernOntario. As a high school student in the 1980s, he participatedin the town's transformationfrom a barrenlandscapesufferingfrom severe environmentaldecay into a relatively healthy landscapelauded by the United Nations as a model of environmentalrecovery.This rejuvenationno doubt influenced his decision to devote his professionalcareerin promoting the protection of the environment.After studyingat the University of Oregon, he settled in Kansas City,where he directsElements,the sustainabilityconsulting arm of BNIM Architects,and runs Ecotone, a company that educates design professionalsabout the impact of construction on the built environment. The Philosophy of SustainableDesign presentsthe basics of sustainabilityas they pertainto design from the perspectiveof someone who not only possesses considerable knowledge and experiencebut is curious enough to challengelongstandingconventions. McLennandefinessustainable

design as a "philosophythat seeks to maximize the quality of the built environment, while minimizingor eliminatingnegative impact to the naturalenvironment."It is not, he insists, a stylisticendeavor.Nor is it Nor should it limited to green architecture. be ugly. Rather,it extends the longstanding definitionsof good design to encompass impacts on the environmentand human health. As a result, it is an approachto design that involves respectand responsibility. In a chapter devoted to the evolution of sustainabledesign, McLennan reminds us that it is not a new approach:vernacular architectureand traditional settlements illustratemany of its fundamentalprinciples, which have receivedvarying degrees of emphasis throughout the history of the built environment.The following six chapters are devoted to these principles:respect for the wisdom of natural systems ("biomimicry"),people ("human vitality"), place ("ecosystem/bioregion"),life cycle ("seven generations"),energy and natural resources ("conservationof renewable resources"), and process ("holistic thinking," which involves collaboration and interdisciplinarycommunication, lifelong learning, challengingrules of thumb, allowing time to make good decisions, and rewarding innovation). The final eight chapters of the book summarizethe author'sthoughts about and experience with other relevant aspects of sustainabledesign: technologies and components, levels of sustainability, productivityand well-being, greening an organization, green economics, the design process, aesthetics, and the future of architecture. Summariesof the most important principlesand a reading list and bibliography conclude the work. Reservationsabout The Philosophy of SustainableDesign are relativelyminor. First, as the book's content is founded on careful research,more rigor with the identification of sources would have enhanced its value as a scholarly work. Second, although there are occasional referencesto conservation, the focus is on new construction; it would have been useful to explore in greaterdepth the application of sustainable-designprinciplesto existing buildings and sites, which comprise a huge portion of the challenges faced by professionals dealing with the built environment.Finally, some sections could have been eliminated. For example, a glossy color insert entitled "A Brief Surveyof Green Buildings,"containing photos but no text, should have been eliminated, as it includes no explana-

tion of how these buildingsexemplified sustainable-designphilosophy. Given that the selection of such projectsrisks being initially incomplete and that exemplary projects are completed each year,it would be preferableto leave the selectingof model case studies to well-balancedjuriesand to document them in professionaljournalsor Web sites. The same critiqueapplies to the appendix listing "Who'sWho in Green Design." Such subjective,time-sensitive materialshould be avoided in monographs whose credibilityrelies on the objective presentationof knowledge and experience and whose shelf life depends on the ongoing relevanceof their content. These reservationsaside, the text is enjoyable and interesting.It is loaded with useful information,thoughtfulreflections, and relevantexamples presentedin a logical and coherentmanner.It servesas a comprehensive introductionto the fundamental principlesof sustainabledesign for students and as a handy overview of the many facets of sustainabilityfor practitionersinvolved in shapingthe built environment.Readers emergenot only more aware of an increasingly sustainableapproachto design but more committedto respectingthe environment and to contributingto its long-term protection for futuregenerations. Susan D. Bronson, MOAQ, MRAIC, FAPT School of Architecture,Universitede Montreal

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