Lyrical Sustainable Design



  • Live, design and work in a way which is consistent with deeply held values and ideals. Recognize personal responsibility for the diverse implications of design decisions. Build consensus, share ideas, cooperate and collaborate.
  • Find inspiration and models in ongoing ecological processes. Accommodate and celebrate the cycle of the seasons, days and nights, and other natural rhythms. Value all stages of human life. Honor diversity.
  • Preserve, enhance and express the unique and special qualities of each site, region and climate; local history and culture. Make site-specific works which, like maps, orient their inhabitants and allow them to “place” themselves, and to dwell, in that context.
  • Think locally, act locally. Maintain existing community ties and support the development of new ones. Work towards making local life as independent and self-sufficient as possible.
  • Make the sources of materials, food, water and energy understandable and controllable. Make the processes and cycles of production, consumption, “waste” and re-production visible.
  • Ask “What is enough?” Be frugal and humane in the acquisition and use of energy, and natural and financial resources. Live on the interest of the natural world instead of depleting its capital. Allow for expansion and change of use without extensive or expensive remaking.
  • Begin design with poetic dreams and memories of lived experiences and ideal places, rather than with abstractions of art, science or technology. Make places that reflect the passage of time and allow their stories to be told.
  • Gracefully support the activities of everyday life. Make places that engage all of the senses. Make evocative places that invite modification, enhancement and embroidery to suit the personal needs and desires of the people who use them. Make places that respond to affection.


Settlement Ecology, Land Use & Economics

  • Preserve and responsibly manage agricultural land, wildlife habitat, watersheds, and groundwater. Infill existing urban fabric before building on undeveloped rural land.
  • Accommodate and support local manufacturers, food producers, craft and tradespeople; walking, bicycling, and public transit; home occupations and mixed-use zoning; community-based living and ownership arrangements such as shared housing, co-housing, & community land trusts.

A Healthier Life

  • When choosing a building material, consider its effects on the health of the people who will produce, install, use, maintain, remove and dispose of it, as well as the environmental effects of its production and transportation.
  • Install heating and ventilation systems that maintain high-quality indoor air. Reduce ambient and equipment noise.
  • Rely on the energy of the human body (a form of solar energy) before turning to technological sources.
  • Support organic farming and urban gardening.
  • Reduce financial burdens.

Resource Intelligence

  • Make smaller places. Remodel before building new.
  • Use durable, high-quality materials in well-crafted assemblies. Specify long-lasting appliances and equipment.
  • Use renewable materials acquired from sustainable sources. Use recycled and resource-efficient materials. Re-use materials.
  • Request job-site recycling. Build-in places for home and workplace recycling. Plan for easy disassembly of buildings and components for re-use or recycling.
  • Specify water-conserving appliances and plumbing fixtures. Plan for gray-water systems. Collect and re-use rainwater.
  • Plant native, perennial, drought tolerant and edible landscaping. Recycle nutrients.

Energy Intelligence

  • Specify super-insulation, and super-insulating windows. Use air-tightening techniques. Use energy-efficient household and office equipment and heating and ventilating systems.
  • Use local materials. Specify materials with low embodied energy.
  • Make the most of natural light. Use energy-efficient artificial lighting.
  • Where appropriate, use energy derived from decentralized, localized and renewable sources such as passive and active solar, photo-voltaic, wind and bio-mass.

The House of the Seasons

(Excerpts from a Parable)



With the grace of only complete confidence, she rode the path between small houses, at the last moment leg swinging out over the seat, coasting along on one pedal. In a second she was bending down, delicately lifting strawberry leaves still wet with morning dew, delighting in the new growth. The apple trees were out too – the smell of pink blossoms sending her a wonderfully heady memory of the first spring they had shared this place. She could hear her lover in the greenhouse, the scrape of spade, to clay, to earth . . .

. . .

Inside, around the doorway to their young daughter’s room, painted figures danced. Animals, people, houses, flowers. The little one had, over the last year or so, been happily embroidering her room . . .


When the sun streamed in and it got too hot, we cranked down the striped canvas awnings on the south side of the house, or closed the shutters on the west. There was something special about the quality of light inside the house during those times – summer sun leaking around and through the slats in the dark green shutters, some kind of insecty buzzing sound coming through too. It was always so much cooler as you stepped inside, the sprong and clack of the screen door shutting behind you . . .


From the porch, we watched the sky turn gray, then black as a storm approached, rolling in off the Sound, bringing the salt smell of the sea, clouds like the braided hair of our grandmother, soft with age. Bright against the darkening sky, a few apples still hung in leafless trees . . .

. . .

An evening breeze, cooler, now and then gently rustled and billowed moon-transparent curtains across half-open french doors. The balcony just beyond promised the sweet and acrid hint of fallen leaves and damp earth. Across the twilit back yard, the tiny window of the small study glowed. . .


We spent much of our winters there, in the kitchen, next to the big stove – it was the warmest place in the house, toasty from baking bread and ginger cookies – telling stories, and playing games. Some say most of the real stuff of life takes place around the kitchen table. The honey golden pine of ours revealed its history – faint indentations, of scribbled lists, round and slow numbers of math lessons, teenage letters to first loves . . . When it got to be time for bed – put off ’till the last possible moment of course – there was a mad rush of small feet through cool hallways to cooler bedrooms and into even cooler, it seemed, feather beds. Diving under thick comforters which slowly warmed, and warmed, and then, we slept.