If Buildings Were Trees

I was watching a documentary recently, The Eleventh Hour (see References below), and the idea that climate change and related environmental issues are design problems strongly resonated with me. The film asked in passing, what if buildings were designed like trees?

Buildings, especially large commercial buildings, are one of our most inefficient and environmentally unfriendly inventions we have. Imagine if we could create buildings along the design elements of trees. These design elements include-

  1. Carbon Sink. Drawing in carbon dioxide.
  2. Oxygen Provider. Providing oxygen needed for other living organisms.
  3. Energy. Creating clean, renewable energy through the magic of photosynthesis.
  4. Water and Pollution Mechanism. Acting as a sponge when there are heavy rains, and minimising run-off and pollutants into the oceans.
  5. Habitat. Providing habitat for other living organisms.
  6. Circular System. At the end of its lifespan, returning to the earth and providing food and resources for other living organisms- there is zero waste.

We walk past trees every day. Yet when we spell out these elements, we can see the genius in the design. Our modern buildings, like many of our current inventions and production methods do not come close. They are primitive by comparison. Imagine if we could use all, or most of the above six design elements in our modern design of high-tech buildings? The emergence of rooftop solar is perhaps a first step.

Our challenge as we move towards the Circular or Sustainable Economy is to model nature’s wonderful design- Biomimicry. We have 4.5 billion years of evolution and creativity waiting to be discovered- if we stop to really see.

“No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the Earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.” – Thomas Jefferson.

By Lee Spano, Creatness International www.creatness.com



The Eleventh Hour 2007, Video, United States, Distributed by Warner Independent Pictures, United States. There is also a related website: www.11thhourfilm.com .