When I began to study Architecture and Interior Design, I had no idea what my area of specialty might eventually be. It was not until I studied Ecology and discovered how much we, as a species needed to become sustainable, that I discovered my direction. Subsequently I immersed myself in everything I thought would make a difference: alternative building materials, renewable energy systems, non-toxic materials, soil microbiology and conservation on all levels. To learn more I became a Certified Permaculture designer and a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professional. More than anything I wanted to have the experience of building a sustainable homestead from the ground up, from raw land to living space. How else could I be of use as a consultant?
Many people ask me, “What is sustainable design?” Having lived off the grid in a yurt for the last 3 years my response is much different than when I began my journey. I used to think that sustainability had to do with the built environment. While this is true, what I’ve learned by also living a sustainable lifestyle is that it is much more about honoring nature, and living within a system that does not take anything away from our future. It was the Iroquois people who held to the law of “seven generation” thinking. They never did anything that would not be sustainable for at least seven generations out. They viewed our Earth, “Gaia”, as a living system, and had reverence for all living things.
Nature will always maintain its balance; it is man who gets out of step. We are part of nature, not separate from it. Living in a forest has taught me this, and forever altered my worldview. If you are living in harmony with your surroundings, there is a natural order for what wants to be expressed. We are working with elements that control the emotional and subliminal effects of the space we are creating. These effects are not imaginary, they’re real—perceived or not. Every space has an associated energy that can be detected, even if its effect is subliminal, to whoever encounters it.
Our intention is everything, and if we are diligent about our creation and work within a space’s constructs, we can create an appearance that is greater than the sum of its parts. And it need not be done ostentatiously; there is beauty in simplicity.
I decided to create a small pond on the deck outside my window. It began as a Feng Shui enhancement–always (as a Permaculture Designer) keeping habitat in mind. I never suspected how entertaining it would be to watch the local birds, chipmunks and squirrels come to drink, bathe and interact. Once I added plants, snails and fish appeared. Even a local frog moved in for the summer. It was much more than I had envisioned.