Ecosystem Design

“There is an ever-increasing reliance on nonprofits to address the world’s most persistent problems.”

The Nonprofit Alliance

The Role of Community Design

The purpose of community design is to turn the existing urban ecosystem into a prospective biome within the context of the Anthropocene. To this end, introducing a nonprofit architectural and engineering firm as a community partner a neighborhood can contribute. The Design Center in this context specializes in a specific locality’s cultural, economic, and ecological conditions.

To be beneficial, implementing improved urban ecology systems requires a balanced interaction between humans and their environments where possible. These methods reveal the complexity of social and economic endeavors that can share a common trait with natural systems. It is possible to waste nothing. Nature is a system that wastes nothing; thus, the challenge is human.

Urban ecosystems are composed of biological components (plants, animals, and other forms of life) and physical components (soil, topography, water, air, and climate). In the urban setting, the biological agents interact with structures and devices of human populations that tend not to be healthy allies. In addition, their material density creates intensive energy use and material transformations that include substantial quantities of waste and excess heat inimical to other biological systems. In addition, other urban disruptions, such as high surface runoff rates, inject heavy metals, calcium deposits, and a long list of synthetic compounds such as pesticides and fertilizers into the soil and waterways. All these problems have design solutions. The question is how to implement them successfully. Two main issues are involved. 

First, in the illustration (left), the black dot (at LEED gold) is the “investment barrier.” Costs exceed market value when the project design and development challenge is to be”sustainable” in all of its meanings

The Cascadia Green Building Council’s illustration of the Living Building Challenge shows how government and charitable organizations are needed to help invest in sustainable development. The importance of this relationship is that a local nonprofit design agent is aware of issues specific to the locality.

As a local specialist, the community design service would partner with the development community, residents, local institutions, and the public sector on a project-by-project basis to fully evaluate ongoing challenges. At the same time, individual projects must comply with city and state environmental impact assessments. Unfortunately, the Living Building Challenge graphic indicates that offsets, shortcomings, and compromises remain. As a result, the integrated value of a private and public benefit remains unachieved. Improving urban ecosystems aims to achieve two goals to close this gap. First, recognize each of these impacts and reestablish balance. Second, to reduce the concentrated effect of cities one building project at a time in a transparent, progressive partnership.