Recognising early on that a sustainable design attitude is innate in most projects nowadays – in the light of pollution, resource scarcity, overpopulation etc – the book prefers to compile a lexical definition, through 100 up-to-date examples of what sustainable design means today, rather then an out-and-out definition.
Although that said, introductory signposts including ‘A culture of Overabundance,’ ‘An Evolving Technological Landscape,’ and ‘Shaping a Sustainable Future’ do help frame the argument.
What this book does well is to form a sense of the scope and scale of sustainable design, through buildings, products, landscapes and infrastructures.
The Living Wall at the Musee du Quai Branly, a Jean Nouvel building, is probably the most brazen example – a vertical garden 12m in height and 200m wide.
Inspired by plant life which lives on cliffs and cave walls, the idea was honed by botanist Patrick Blanc, who worked on the project, and comprises a built in irrigation system.
Familiar product designs in the book include the Samuel Wilkinson designed Plumen 001 light bulb, which uses 80 per cent less energy than incandescent bulbs, and the Adrea Air Purifier, which is a living air filter containing a plant that metabolises air pollution quickly and releases clean air.
The unarguably brilliant Embrace Infant Warmer tackles two problems, hypothermia, which affects more than 20 million babies, and the relative cost of incubators – up to £15,000 – which have to be powered by electricity. This doesn’t. It also costs £125.
It’s made clear at several points in the book that sustainable design works best when a joined-up approach is taken, extending the potential of sustainable projects which work well in isolation.
Well, at the macro end of sustainability is the astonishingly ambitious Masdar City, a Foster + Partners project to create a carbon-neutral desert city.
The so called ‘cold island’ will house 50,000 people, 1000 businesses and a university when complete, using wind towers and homogenous building heights to keep hot winds out during the day.
Foster + Partners is working alongside climate engineers Transsolar, as well as urban designers, landscape architects, traffic consultants, infrastructure experts, renewable system experts, Islam experts and building system experts.
Vitamin Green is designed by Julie Kim, edited by Sara Goldsmith, published by Phaidon and costs £45