THE PATHS WE CHOOSE
It occurred to me upon reading this month's cover story that life isn't always as arbitrary as it might sometimes appear. It fascinates me to learn that a person such as Leslie Hoffman, who has spent her entire life pursuing her seemingly divergent passions for gardening and sailingwhich has literally taken her across the globewould end up heading the nonprofit organization Earth Pledge, where she is utilizing her experience as an architect and contractor (and, indeed, a gardener) to advance the cause of sustainable development, greening the New York City skyline one rooftop at a time. "It's as if the core of her beingthe sum total of disparate life experiencesled her on a path to the nonprofit agency's door," staff writer Carol Tisch writes of Hoffman, "giving her the wherewithal to flourish in an open-ended job framed by a big-ticket subject like sustainability."
Admittedly, Hoffman says she's taken some odd courses to arrive at her current position, but suggests that "as all of us move through life, we end up with a sense of ourselves in relation to the rest of the world." It is precisely this self-awareness, if you will, that design can influence as we move through life within the spaces we inhabit along the way. In a special Commentary article as a predecessor to his keynote address at EnvironDesign9, Lance Secretan points out that many designers see the importance of the physical environment in human performance and potential, and many are called to imagine and create the extraordinary spiritual and creative liberation that flows from sacred places designed for the soul. "The possibility of design is to carefully and lovingly create beautiful ambiance for employees and customers, knowing that establishing a connection with the soul is critical to wellness, inspiration and organizational excellence," he writes.
Essential to the soul connection, he says, is putting people in touch with the natural world and borrowing cues from nature for the design of spaces to inspire and rejuvenate. This link to nature is central to Sargert Design Associates' creation of the El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa in Taos, NM, this month's featured project. Situated in a green space with 80-year-old cottonwood trees, waterfalls, stone water sculptures, a trout-stocked pond and regional flora and foliage, the resort also utilizes eco-friendly building materials throughouta testament to the owner's environmental philosophy and the design team's commitment to sustainable design.
Designing spaces that consider their impact on the environment not only enhances human performance (and health), but also adds to a company's bottom line. As if he had spoken to Hoffman about Earth Pledge's Green Roof initiative before penning his article, Secretan supports this assertion by noting that Ford Motor Co. has created the world's largest living roof by covering its manufacturing plant with 10 acres of drought-resistant sedum plant costing $3.6 million. Though this is double the cost of regular roofing, the company will save $35 million that it will not need to spend on storm sewers and storm-water treatment systems because the roof acts as a natural filtration system, sending excess storm water to retention ponds before being released into the Rouge River.
In addition to Ford, a host of other companies and organizations have recognized environmental stewardship as the creative and critical force driving contemporary design and product innovation. You can learn more about these forward-thinking companies by turning to our special EnvironDesign9 Sponsor Portfolio beginning on page 52. Better yet, log on to www.environdesign.com and register to attend this unparalleled educational conference and forge strategic connections with the key players propelling the sustainable design movement forward.
What these visionary people and organizations share in common is a choice to travel an uncertain, yet necessary pathone that will have a profound impact on generations to follow and the planet they inherit. Although it may seem at times their efforts are unrelated, or perhaps even competing, they are certainly taking the road Robert Frost described as "the one less traveled by." And in the end, I believe we'll all agree, "It has made all the difference."