By Ed Hallisy for SUST 210 Online
We have reached a point in our history when architecture and design have become more than simply a matter of shelter. We have evolved to a point in time when we are capable of incorporating all that we have learned throughout our development. Function is as much of concern as aesthetic appetites. How our structures function is as important if not more important than how the structure looks.
What we choose to create and build should say more about us then what is economically viable. Cost today means more than what can be bought with money. People, natural resources, and time are the currencies that truly matter most. In his 1993 talk “A Centennial Sermon: Design, Ecology, Ethics and the Making of Things” (available here), architect William McDonough states that “As a designer of buildings, things, and systems, I ask myself how to apply these three characteristics of living systems to my work. How do I employ the concept of waste equals food, of current solar income, of protecting biodiversity in design?”
In keeping with the spirit of this idea I choose to look at Lutheran General Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge. A hospital is a place that embodies similar ideals as those used in designing and building — that is, not accepting the fate before us but cultivating our abilities to live to the fullest.
This building has been awarded the LEED Gold certification. To do so it incorporated many features that seem so practical that is a bit amazing it had not been done before. As noted in their press release, they had to:
…meet numerous demanding standards, including innovative water efficiency requirements. Native drought-resistant plantings outside the hospital are irrigated with recovered storm water. The building also has rain chains leading from canopies to planters, a grove of trees and curved retaining walls that guide the flow of water through rain and spiral gardens on the site. Lutheran General is the first hospital in the Midwest to achieve this level of LEED recognition.
When considering the goal of any structure, we should ask whether it is designed to serve its inhabitants and to do so in the most efficient manner possible. This building certainly fits the bill. It is a great facility that serves as a good example for other structures as to what they can achieve.
Each week during the Fall 2013 semester, students in Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 210 Sustainable Future online class at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts on suburban sustainability issues to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.