Designed for the Future: A Sampler

A sampler of the excellent compilation by Jared Green of communities and structures "Designed for the Future." Much food for thought.

One of the books I discovered this year is Designed for the Future: 80 Practical Ideas for a Sustainable World, by Jared Green (Princeton Architectural Press, 2015).

He talked to more than 80 architects, urban planners, landscape architects, journalists, artists and environmental leaders, and asked them the same question: “What gives you hope that a sustainable future is possible. What shows the way forward? Please talk about a project.”

The results are impressive, as articulated and pictured in his 173-page book. It fueIs the kinds of conversations I intend to host with local experts in our community during the coming year.

One of the projects described included Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway, for its reuse of rail infrastructure, as suggested by Peter Harnik, cofounder of Rails to Trails.

As Green wrote:

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “While we face incredible challenges – with climate change, biodiversity loss, and rising economic inequality – there are glimpses of a more positive, sustainable future here today.” [/pullquote]


In the Introduction to his book, Green noted some of the themes that emerged from the varied projects:

  • Dense, walkable communities are the most energy-efficient and low-carbon environments we have… and need to be supplemented with beautiful streets, parks, waterfronts.
  • Communities know best what they need and what they can handle. If communities feel empowered, they can solve many of their own problems and plot out their own paths to future sustainability.
  • Reinvest in old places, buildings, and traditions; imbue them with new energy.
  • Go local for skills and resources. Use what you have, as that will form a language that resonates with the community.
  • Invest in people by creating new skills. Who will design and build the most cutting-edge buildings and infrastructure of the future?
  • Reuse what you have; waste nothing.
  • Sustainability is about creating affordable opportunities in housing, employment and transportation for regions.
  • Bureaucracies, which set policies that affect our health and environment, can evolve and become smarter. Sustainable policies create broader impacts beyond one project.

These are the types of conversations I hope you will help me lead as part of the “Sustainable We” conversations. How do we build our community intelligently, with passion, into our future?

— Mikki Morrissette, founder, and the new non-profit CollectiveImpact.ME

A “Designed for the Future” Sampler

Here are a few favorite projects from Jared Green’s book. Look for them to be spotlighted on the MPLSGreen Facebook page as well, where you can share the project ideas with other co-collaborators.

Lions Park Playscape

A re-use design studio in Alabama creates community-oriented projects in underserved neighborhoods, like this Lions Park Playscape.

Sustainable Living

  • BedZed: a living laboratory for sustainable housing, created in 2002 (Beddington Zero Energy Development, London) – “Every country needs a living laboratory such as BedZED to start a bigger conversation about what’s possible in sustainable housing”… unique to local climate and lifestyle. [Suggested by Jemma Green, Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute, Australia]
  • Leichtag Foundation Ranch, Encinitas, California – teaches self-sufficiency and food justice through high-performance agriculture and retreats, and the value of community-based food production. [Suggested by Mia Lehrer, Mia Lehrer + Associates, Los Angeles]
  • Lion’s Park Playscape – using recycled materials and sophisticated design for an inexpensive, creative playscape in Greensboro, Alabama, designed by students of the Rural Studio design-build program. [Suggested by Mikyoung Kim, award-winning landscape architect]

Natural Resources

  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is now using green infrastructure – instead of simply hard concrete, steels, walls and pipes – to improve resiliency of American coastlines. [Suggested by Diana Balmori, author, “A Landscape Manifesto]
  • Mushroom Board, a product created by Ecovative Design in upstate New York – grown from an organic process found in nature that can be molded into any shape or thickness. “For furniture alone, shipping bulky items across continents requires tons of packing material.” [Suggested by Jonsara Ruth, design collective Salty Labs]
MediaTIC building, Barcelona

The MediaTIC building in Barcelona is covered in a plastic coating of inflatable bubbles, which regulates light and temperature, primarily preventing 114 tons of CO2 a year from escaping from the building. The translucent covering acts as a mobile sunscreen that helps light penetrate and affords heat savings.

Creative Energy

  • British Ambassador’s Residence, Washington D.C. — designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in late 1920s, using “his knowledge of sun path, airflow, shading, ceiling height and wall thickness to save money on energy.” According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it would take 65 years, using 40 percent recycled materials, to make up for the emissions produced from demolishing a building like this. It has been upgraded to include energy efficient lighting with solar panels and rainwater-harvesting system for its gardens. [Suggested by Leo Daly III, Leo Daly Associates]
  • Media TIC, Barcelona, designed by Cloud 9 – a series of bridges providing an open plan structure that can adapt to many types of events. It uses new technology to both shield itself and open itself up to light and thermal heat (inflatable translucent cladding, Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene, with membrane of nitrogen gas and oil). “This technology provides a new way to regulate sunlight without insulation or heating and cooling systems… fully integral to the building design, not just added on at the end of the design process.” [Suggested by David Garcia, Institute for Architecture and Technology, Royal Danish Arts Academy, Denmark]
  • Solar Roadways – solar-powered panels used as building blocks for roads, designed by Scott and Julie Brusaw. “Produces electricity through photovoltaic cells underneath a heavy-duty, recycled glass surface that is shatter-resistant; its manufacture is based on airplane black box technology.” [Suggested by Christoph Gielen, aerial photographer]

Urban Planning

  • Burnham Plan, a 1909 plan created for Chicago by a team of architects led by Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett, with a focus on lakefront, festivals, parks, museums, transportation. “The plan was the first comprehensive attempt to reshape a major American city and create a culture of planning… Master planning needs to be about rebuilding neighborhoods – not destroying them.” [Suggested by Teresa Cordova, director of University of Illinois at Chicago’s Great Cities Institute]
  • Chattanooga – once a city with a polluted river and abandoned industrial brownfields, now accessible by electric buses, restored 19th century buildings, mixed-use complexes with lively street businesses, a pedestrian bridge linking downtown to waterfront parks. ‘There were political, economic, and social hurdles to jump, and it took time, patience, fortitude, and vision… It offers important lessons in what to do – and what not to do – to humanize and populate an urban core in responsible, sustainable ways.” [Suggested by Kristen Richards, editor,]
  • Philadelphia – progressive stormwater management plan. Rather than spending millions to update antiquated sewer system and stormwater flow, it is using its shortage of green space to create new areas for rainwater absorption. Low-tech, low-cost. Includes green, permeable spaces at schools, green roofs, cisterns, reused graywater. [Inga Saffron, architecture critic, Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • Sherbourne Commons, Toronto – a new waterfront park and water filtration plant, to be surrounded by new condos. The filtration system is visible mesh that cleans stormwater before it goes to Lake Ontario. [Suggested by Christopher Hume, urban affairs reporter, Toronto Star]
  • Sims Municipal Recycling Facility, Brooklyn – collects used plastic, glass, metal, and paper from all around New York City and sells byproducts globally. [Suggested by Robert Rogers, architect, Rogers Partners]

City/Resident Collaboration

  • High Line of New York City — created from a public-private partnership. Two residents campaigned to save the abandoned railroad track, which others viewed as an eyesore and impediment to future development. The city covered capital costs, and a private organization covers long-term maintenance. “Collaboration is about people suspending disbelief and seeing the potential… Community still matters and important and innovative ideas are still generated at the community level.” [Suggested by Jeffrey Shumaker, chief urban designer, New York City Department of City Planning]
  • Rebuilding Center, Portland, Oregon – a leading re-use warehouse, created alongside DeConstruction Services, and ReFind Furniture. It diverts 6 million pounds of reusable building materials from landfills every year while creating jobs and serving as social hub and educational resource. [Suggested by Sarah Mineka Ichioka, cultural innovator]
Serenbe, 30 miles from Atlanta, a consciously created and creative community

Serenbe, 30 miles from Atlanta, a consciously created and creative community

Interconnected, Livable, Multifamily Communities

  • Christie Walk, Adelaide, Australia – affordable, multigenerational sustainable living created by a non-profit group
  • Fruitvale Village, Oakland – expanding opportunity for disenfranchised or isolated communities, with mixed-use, public transportation access, day care
  • Malmo, Sweden — comprehensive energy strategy, repurposed buildings, capturing organic waste for biogas, free organic lunches for all schoolkids, fair-trade city
  • Serenbe, 30 miles from Atlanta – weaving agricultural farmland into a sustainable town, designed as series of hamlets using energy efficient buildings in walkable neighborhoods, and featuring farm-to-table restaurants, native landscaping, organic waste collection
  • Stellar Apartments, Eugene, Oregon – certified, multifamily passive house project
  • Unite d’Habitation, Marseille, France – efficient, affordable housing in compact microhousing system designed by Le Corbusier, created to address housing needs of France after World War II.