ECODESIGN, A Manual for Ecological Design is fundamentally an instruction manual. Ken Yeang offers his thoughts and a great deal of specific content on how our built environment can, and must, integrate with the natural environment.
The goal of ECODESIGN is to provide designers with a set of instructions so that the things we make become an “integral and benign part of life on the planet”. The book is not intended to convince, encourage, or cajole the reader into making environmentally sensitive design decisions. The book is neither about doom and gloom, nor is it about cheerleading. This is a comprehensive, technical, matter-of-fact text written by a preeminent architectural designer from an ecologist’s perspective.
For some, this matter-of-fact ecosystem approach is likely to be a conceptual shift from the current building design process. It is certainly a broader perspective on architectural practice than is typically taken. And, it should be.
The work of ecodesign is not about how to engineer an efficient building, or how to efficiently integrate professional services (architects, mechanical engineers, lighting designers, civil engineers…), rather it is about the fundamental integration of the building and built environment with the natural environment. For Yeang, this is not a subject of discussion – it is an imperative.
In tackling such a large subject matter, Yeang employs a simple organizational strategy. The book is broken into three chapters – General Premises and Strategies, Design Instructions, and Other Considerations. Each of these chapters is further broken into subtopics like Design for water conservation, recycling, harvesting, etc. Each of these subtopics is an independent resource.
ECODESIGN, A Manual for Ecological Design is a highly valuable resource to be added to one’s library of architectural design books. The organized approach to an enormously broad and complex topic is admirable. While this organization is useful for arranging the material, it sometimes tends to compete with the content of the book.
There are moments when the references to other subtopics in the book obscure the primary material being conveyed. The book’s format and graphic design also tend vie for attention with the content.
While a criticism on non-content issues may seem petty, there is such a wealth of information here, that it would be a shame if readers did not work past this difficulty. The design profession has an extraordinary ability to make real change. Ken Yeang and ECODESIGN offer needed thoughts to a dialogue that will be ongoing for quite a long time. Enjoy.
Rand Ekman, Director of Environmental Design at OWP/P, is an environmental design consultant, and an architectural project manager. This is an edited version of his review which can be seen in full at www.aia