Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Towards a Resource Centric Design

U.S. Population per square mile
In the current economic circumstances, planners and designers are charged with the difficult task of doing more with less. By not preventing the same mistakes and misconceptions made by the Modernist movement of the second quarter of the 20th century, the design community has, over the past couple of decades, reduced planning and design to a formulaic and often homogeneous approach in the urban and suburban fabric. Their method: create a standardized design process that results in a standardized appearance and function that ultimately relates to a uniform and familiar significance. Objects and landscapes are normalized via the propagation of a secure perspective. The environment is something to be consumed.

We, as a nation, are privileged to have a large, mostly temperate land mass; a diverse and relatively small population base; and a rich and plentiful resource base. However, our inability to address the implementation of an integrated design ethic at the regional level, has, in large part, contributed to planning and design that does not address energy conservation and resource consumption at the macro level. Sustainability is mere language, if there is no large-scale view, in real-time, of the energy flows that drive all of earth's systems. Resource modeling at the regional scale is paramount to understanding how basic, yet diverse, concepts like carrying capacity, soil stability and traffic volumes relate to events and objects at the end-user level: healthy communities, sound construction and thoughtful resource conservation.

The resulting concept is a region-specific system of detailed design decisions that are rooted in a firm understanding of the natural processes that support all living things, as well as the artificial processes that mediate the natural environment for human use. The following images attempt to illustrate a simple environmental motive: water and petroleum conservation as related to the decentralization of conventional agriculture in favor of a localized food system.

The colors range on the maps are normalized to be relative to each other and the color scale is simple: The darkest red means high and the darkest green means low with the scale of colors in between indicating the full range respectively. 

Total farmland as a percentage of total land
Acres of corn harvested
Kilograms of the agrochemical Atrazine applied per acre
Percentage of farms owned by a family or individual
Mean precipitation
This series of maps illustrates a simple spatial concept that relates to a multitude of complex implementation strategies. The goal of this particular example of a Resource Centric Design strategy is the decentralization of conventional agriculture in favor of sustainable, or even surpassable, local food systems. In essence the maps here, produced from various but respected data sources, speak to the inefficient resource consumption and potential chemical abuses of an Industrial Agricultural System and its dependence on fossil fuels and unsustainable water management practices. This single perspective of a much more complex problem could, in part, lead to the formulation of an integrated design ethic that could holistically protect sensitive watersheds, activate local economies and reduce petroleum consumption significantly when applied at the regional level.

For some recent news on the agrochemical Atrazine Click Here!

Source: USDA, ESRI, US Census

Posted By William Aultman@ EcoUrbanity

1 comment:

  1. Nice work. I would like to see some legends to your maps' colors. I know that you are imparting a 'visual' experience, but if we want to study the data, it would be good to see what the gradations mean - at least for some of the maps. Thanks