Last week I attended the Rocky Mountain Institute 2009 Conference in San Francisco, where I saw some great examples of how technology, business, and design can be combined to yield effective sustainability solutions.
Technology: Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, Inc. described his vision for software solutions that can enable designers and engineers to visualize, simulate, and analyze different options before they're real--to be able to optimize and make selections of types of materials, window-wall components, and building orientation early in the design process. In this way, Autodesk can potentially have a profound effect on the way things are designed, created, and manufactured in the quest for a sustainable future.
Business: Ray Anderson, Founder and Chairman of Interface, Inc. inspired the audience by recounting how he had an epiphany after reading Paul Hawken's book The Ecology of Commerce, then set out to completely change how his company Interface did business, striving to embed sustainable ways of doing business into their corporate culture. Dispelling the notion that sustainable practices cost more, Interface has been able to use fewer resources and be more profitable--in other words, sustainable practices make good business sense.
Design: Amory Lovins, Chairman and Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute shared his thoughts around the power of Integrative Design--taking a multi-disciplinary approach to design and engineering. RMI has used this integrative approach with their consulting engagements to create effective solutions like the Empire State Building Retrofit, that is expected to achieve up to 40% energy cost savings. Janine Benyus, Co-Founder of the Biomimicry Guild, pointed out the power of applying principles from biology, from the world around us, to creating sustainable solutions. Inspired by principles of random, non-repeating patterns found in forest floors in nature, the design team at Interface developed the successful Entropy line of carpet tiles. Good design makes good business sense as well.
I came away from the RMI Conference inspired and motivated to continue working on the technology parts of the solution--finding ways to enable designers and engineers to optimize their designs with better tools, more robust digital content, and supporting services.
Continuing to explore new approaches to design technology, it's what we do at Autodesk Labs.
Guest Contributor: Douglas Look, Senior Strategic Designer, Autodesk Labs