cubeBringing design to life

Nature's geometry is the form about which ecological accounting reveals the functional integrity necessary to create a viable design plan that conserves energy, reuses materials, minimizes impacts and affords living things a chance to actively enhance human experiences of space over time when occupying any terrain.

The play of life

Elements of a plan

Nature's geometry

Ecological accounting

Give living things a chance to actively enhance


"Form ever follows function."

Louis Sullivan, 1896.

1. Includes the whole system, not just parts of it.

2. Recognizes the ecosystem's dynamic character, presenting a moving picture rather than a still photograph of terrains.

3. Uses the widest definition of environments – natural, physical, economic, social, and cultural.

4. Encompasses both urban and rural activities

5. Is based on natural geographical units such as watersheds, rather than on political boundaries. An example of a species range.

6. Embraces all levels of activity–local, regional, national, and international; Coastal Zone Management.

watersheds and scale what is a watershed?

river stream

"The notion of green infrastructure hints at a holistic approach to pollution, biodiversity, and watershed health . . . ."

Ecological Design, Van der Ryn, pp. 44-45.

“Designs that minimize environmental impacts while meeting economic constraints cannot be developed without”
“clear and comprehensive tools for assessing those impacts.” 

p. 101.
Green Roof
Green roof protects water quality reducing polluted runoff.
Ecological design . . . .Matches biological diversity with cultural diversity . . . .a form of engagement and partnership with nature . . . . Simply the effective adaptation to and integration with nature's processes."
Van der Ryn, pp. 18-23.

Ecological Accounting informs design

“We have largely failed to consider the parallel set of accounts that link designs to the health of ecosystems."

p. 82

            1          acres                   of abused land        
            2          kilowatt hours      of energy
            3          gallons                 of water
            4          pounds                 of eroded soil
            5          morbidity rate       of increases over existing or ambient disease rate due to pollution
            6          decibels                of noise above tolerable limits leading to hearing impairment.

                        and all the other direct and indirect impacts of a design

[5&6 above are J. Siry's contribution to Van der Ryn's list.}

“Just as standard accounting procedures (practices) allow us to determine how money is acquired and spent, ecological accounting procedures provide a way of tracking ecologically relevant variables.”

p. 82.


economic accounting and ecological accounting

"New applications of ecological accounting are also providing a way of relating resource flows to the landscapes that sustain us."

". . . to calculate the land area it would require to sustainably provide the . . . . 12.5 acres per capita [person] . . . required to provide basic resources for the region – an area twenty-two times larger than the region itself."

pp. 100-101.

A barrier island's size.

“This kind of result challenges us to think more carefully about our patterns of consumption and practices of design."

“Ecological accounting encourages us to ask tough questions and seek detailed answers.”

“Designs that minimize environmental impacts while meeting economic constraints cannot be developed without” … “clear and comprehensive tools for assessing those impacts.” 

"setting up accounts for energy, water, materials, and other variables provides critical guidance. . . ."

p. 101.


The Earth will be a source of heat for millennia to come.



Sources to consult:

Reduce carbon and nitrogen emissions
National Coastal Condition Reports
NOAA's State of the Coasts
Island forests

Related Wiki page