99% Guilt Free

“Sustainable design is a design philosophy that seeks to maximize the quality of the built environment while minimizing or eliminating negative impact to the natural environment.” – Jason F. McLennan, The Philosophy of Sustainable Design

I like McLennan’s definition of sustainable design because it’s broken into two parts (1) minimizing negative impact, and (2) maximizing quality. Minimizing the negative is a given that I think everyone understands (and is absolutely critical, no doubt), but it’s the aspect of sustainable design that is also seeking to

“Maximize the quality of the built environment”

that I find really inspiring. That is what intrigued me about Civil Twilight’s Lunar-resonant Streetlights. This project won the 2007 Metropolis Next Generation Design Competition partly because explored the serious issue of massive energy consumption by excessive outdoor lighting by offering a poetic solution that really focused on maximizing quality. Civil Twilight’s streetlights sense and respond to ambient moonlight and allow people in urban areas to reconnect with the nighttime cycles that were lost long ago to light pollution.

Civil Twilight’s Anton Willis explains the Lunar-resonant project, the strange, purposefully wasteful history of the standard streetlight, and sustainability design that appeals to people’s “irrational aspirations as opposed to their rational, guilt-driven gut reactions.”

Two things:

  1. The MIT Media Lab research about adaptive indoor lighting I mentioned in this episode is discussed here.
  2. I learned about item #1 through GOOD, who I also owe a debt for introducing me to Civil Twilight/Anton Willis. I was lucky enough to attend the GOOD Design Bay Area event, hosted by Alissa Walker, that featured Civil Twilight and several other kick-ass Bay Area designers/problem solvers.

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