Ayres Knowledge Center Learning From Nature | Page 8

up at night .) But it isn ’ t just that , the cost to produce and ship food has gone down . And we grow less of our own food ( Putnam and Allshouse , 1994 ), probably because we don ’ t have the time to grow it . Unfortunately , the way we lowered the cost of producing and shipping food wasn ’ t simply in growing and trucking efficiencies , we also made the food less healthy . A lot has been written about this by many really good authors ( Michael Pollan , Mark Schatzker , Nina Teicholz , to name just three ) so I ’ ll digress . Suffice it to say the generalization I made is true at the personal as well as the corporate or commercial levels , we can all readily think of examples where we invest too much in the things that burn out fast , and too little in the things that should last . The take home is : are we making the right level of investment based on the expected ROI ?
If we examine the other side of this coin , we have to admit we also have a hard time imagining how the “ waste streams ” the decomposed or eroded pieces of the systems or objects we design can serve as investment capital in a new system or object . Recycling is one means of addressing this idea , and there are some really cool design hacks for shipping containers , and palettes , or repurposed this or that , but I ’ m also imagining a larger perspective . What are the possibilities at a planning level ( think Smart Cities )? Do we routinely examine the closed loop opportunities at a community planning or site planning level that covert traditional waste streams into downstream resources ?
To be honest , in the design world , we ’ ve only just begun to scratch the surface in this regard . And while there has
8 | LEARNING FROM NATURE been a renaissance in how designers think about storm water , wind , and solar energy as untapped resources , there ’ s more . As an example , what is the energy generating potential of stormwater ? Recall that at one point in history water in-flow was the most abundant most readily available source of energy in many parts of the temperate world . Today we have millions of gallons of water in-flow following every storm .


One of the ways that Nature balances rules one and two is by avoiding over designing objects or systems . That doesn ’ t mean Nature is austere in its design , but it also isn ’ t hubris . We are all really familiar with the amazing and inspiring beauty in Nature . But in Nature , where there is form ( or color ) there is function . Nature builds irreducibly complex systems . An irreducible complex system has all the components needed to meet the functional expectations without unnecessary accoutrement . The flip side is , if you remove any of the components from the object or system fails to function .
An example from the built world is the classic snap mouse trap . The snap mouse trap has all the pieces needed to do the job of catching mice . It doesn ’ t need more than the basic pieces of a platform , spring , snap bar , latch , and trigger . But it also doesn ’ t function without any one of these pieces . There is some latitude in the size or form of the components on a mouse trap but the various components have to maintain a degree of balance . The diameter of the snap bar can vary some without affecting