Thoughts on Sustainable Design – Part 2 (And, a Contest!)

(I noticed for some reason, folks were reading this a lot lately.  But since it was one of the posts form the old website that I dragged over at the last minute when they shut down, I lot of the images were no longer there and the links didn’t always work.  So I have edited it to fix those  problems, along with the previous post, which is the first of the two in this series).

In the last post, I said I would share a few more of the things that have helped me feel connected with the earth and environment. What follows is that list. Bear in mind that these things have come out of a growing awareness and taken time to evolve and become a
part of my consciousness. But as my awareness has grown, they have become an important part of my focus and desire to be mindful and respectful of the planet as I go about my day to day life.

Recognize that, In Your Heart, you Probably Already Know

When I took the job with McClure Engineering and told my folks why (i.e. my interview with Bill among other things), my Dad related that he wasn’t exactly surprised. He told me that when I was 8 or 9, we were driving past a strip mine in central Pennsylvania (where I grew up) and I asked him what it was. He explained about coal and how coal provided the fuel for our power plants.

Apparently, I then asked where the coal came from. He responded with the standard answer for the time; that coal and oil were the result of swamps and dinosaurs that had died and been buried and, over time, had resulted in the oil coal and oil fields that we were now tapping for our energy needs. I then asked about what would happen when we ran out of coal. Dad told me we never would run out, to which I responded that I didn’t see many swamps and dinosaurs around to become the future coal and oil fields.

We engineers are logical folk, and if you do the math, it pretty much says that we can’t keep doing things the way we are doing them and expect it all to work out.

Foster a Sense of the Rhythm of the Earth and Universe

O.K. so now I’m getting pretty touchy/feely. But, the fact is that if you are a technical person, you can appreciate this stuff. Go to one of the weather web sites and spend a bit of time understanding what’s going to impact your environment for the next couple of days. I happen to like:

  • The University of Washington website, which, while focused on the Pacific Northwest, is full of links to nationwide and world wide data and has a virtual map room that lets you quickly access the latest observations.


  • The NOAA website, which hooks you up with a lot of climate information in addition to current information for your area.



  • The Aviation Weather Center website, which gives you the ability to look at stuff in a lot more detail.  For instance, you can step up through the atmosphere and look at the temperatures and wind streamlines every couple of thousand of feet.  This is today’s picture at 18,000 feet, which seems to be the level where the wind pattern guides the weather systems across the country.


  • The Sky and Telescope Magazine interactive star chart, which lets you see the sky for your exact location, shift the image a minute at a time, see what the horizon would look like in any direction and a lot of other cool stuff. (You have to go through a one time no cost installation process to get this one, but its worth it and doesn’t take long.)  This it what it will look like tonight in Portland and what the view will be from our front porch if its clear we happen to be sitting out looking at the stars.


As part of my morning routine, while having coffee, I look at these sites just about every day. Don’t worry; you don’t have to tell your friends that you are doing anything
touchy-feely. For all they know, you are just keeping track of the things that will impact the building you are designing or starting up or operating.

But the fact is, if you do take a look at this stuff, then you will also get in touch with the amazing rhythms and patterns of the earth and environment around you. And, if you do that, you can’t help but honor it, or at least, respect it.

Integrate Yourself with the Rhythm of the Earth and Universe

O.K., more of the “touchy feely” stuff, but bear with me. Having used the links above to understand what the outdoor environment will be like and where the sun and moon will rise and set and where the stars will be, pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage and go sit on your deck or front porch or front step or anywhere that gives you a westward view, no matter how small, and watch it happen. Watch the sun drop below the horizon
and the clouds turn orange, then pink then lavender and then go away and the sky become deep indigo and then the first stars appear.

The picture is a bit dark but it probably gives you the idea.  It was taken on the Oregon Coast one night last summer.  Better yet, do this with someone whose company you enjoy be it your lover, your neighbor, your puppy or your cat. Kathy, my bride and I try to do this every day and the benefits are many.

If you are starting to think this stuff might actually be interesting, get a copy of Connecting with the Cosmos by Donald Goldsmith and try some of the things he suggests. Most of them are great things to share with your kids and grand kids in addition to exposing yourself to the ideas. There are also some interesting ideas about the connection between science and the cosmos on line at the Science Integration Institute.

And, you can make all of this as techie as you want. For instance, consider the following illustration.

It’s not a depiction of the performance of machinery. And, to make things interesting, the first person to post a comment and correctly identify what the graph represents and what each of the lines are will receive a bottle of Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot noir from me (one of Kathy’s and my favorites) (assuming Oregon can ship wine to your state) to assist you with your observation of the sunsets (you provide the westward view, porch swing, and companion).

Take a minute to say “Thank You”

Say thank you to whom ever you feel is the higher power that created all of this stuff that we use so freely and with out thinking. And, if you don’t think there is a higher power,
that’s all right, but say thank you anyway out of respect for your mom, or grandmother or an older woman in your childhood would have told you that it was the right thing to do; i.e. to feel and express gratitude for blessings, no matter what the source.

In the next post, I’ll be returning to the more technical focus that I usually have. But hopefully, the last two posts have given you something to think about with regard to technology and environment so you can apply what you know and learn as a technical
person in a manner that honors and respects your relationship with the earth.

David Sellers
Senior Engineer – Facility Dynamics Engineering

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4 Responses to Thoughts on Sustainable Design – Part 2 (And, a Contest!)

  1. The graph represents the movement of the earth and the moon
    relative to the sun, resulting in the varying tides during a lunar
    cycle. The top shows the position of the sun relative to a
    revolving earth, the second shows the position of the moon, and the
    third shows the effect on our planet’s oceans and seas. This
    particular graph shows a large difference between high and low tide
    during the middle of June, called Spring tides.

  2. Congratulations Garrett!! You’ve nailed it. Send me an e-mail so I
    can figure out how to send you your bottle of Pinot. My address is David

  3. What a refreshing view from an engineer. I don’t use “engineer” in
    a negitive sense, but in my consulting business I work with many
    engineers in the area of water and recycled water and I find that
    the majority would rather never leave the confines of their office.
    It is encourging to find someone from the profession that connects
    to the real world, that the design originated in the office may
    have problems with a real world application – in more ways than
    one. Of course, Mr. Sellers is from Oregon, which also happens to
    be my place of origin. Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for the kind words. Personally, I find the field to be a
    very fun place to be. I learned more as a designer there than in a
    class room. But the class room gave me the courage and insight I
    need to understand what I’m seeing in the field. Where are you now
    if you are not in Oregon?

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