Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ecological Intelligence and the Good Guide_Parallels to Design and Architecture

Earlier this week I listened to a Treehugger Radio Interview of Daniel Goleman, Author of the new book Ecological Intelligence and the key issues surrounding the book advocating greater transparency about the food and products which we use everyday. He also advocates for a systemic view of nature, health concerns, environmental and societal or cultural concerns. He advocates for greater transparency and life cycle assessment by companies to provide missing information to complete the puzzle of "how Green is my organic cotton bag anyway?" etc. Time magazine recently said his was one of the top 10 ideas. It was world changing Idea number 10.

As a green architect I often want to know more about the products and materials we use on our building projects, especially if we're doing a LEED certified Green Building and to tell you the truth there doesn't seem to be much discussion in architectural practice about Life Cycle Assessment in parallel with the LEED Green Building process.
I think this is a missed oppourtunity, or one in it's beginning stages of integration and development. Daniel Goleman was extremely persuasive especially in relation to the products we touch everyday, eat, drink, wear, drive, ride on etc. He mentioned a website called the Good Guide which examines the three major categories identified above, scores them seperately and then averaged overall. I visited the site and was it easy to use. I looked up cold cereal and it was fascinating! I'm going to buy Dora the Explorer Cereal, surpisingly well-rated.
That's in comparison to the unwieldy unfriendly data driven techy interfaces available through the USGBC's website for LCA tools and links. I challenge the Building design community to make a LCA system as simple and helpful to use as Good Guide's. It would so help us in our efforts to confirm the viability of material and systems selections in our projects. The last thing I want to do is fill out wonky forms and track down myriad details about products in a spreadsheet application.
Industry should work with independent third party vendors like Good Guide and others such as and more, put their information out there for all to see in a transparent and easily accessible way. Companies which do this will no doubt be leaders and innovators in their field, and, find a great deal of profitability and market acceptance by being so open. What I like most about the criteria used by Good Guide is the big picture systems based approach to information. Clarity and ease of access, a beautiful interface are priceless for the designer who wants to be credible and authentic in offering clients "Green Choices" with backup behind them.
I'm going to see if my local library can order Dan's book so I can check it out and so others can enjoy it too.

No comments: