"There is a great need for the introduction of new values in our society, where bigger is not necessarily better, where slower can be faster, and where less can be more." —Gaylord Nelson
By the time this issue hits your desk, Earth Day will have come and gone and been forgotten by most. But as I write this, the annual holiday celebrating environmentalism has just dawned. This year's theme is The Face of Climate Change, with participants writing in and sending photographs to tell stories of how climate change affects people personally, as well as places and animals. There are photos from around the world—people planting trees in Toronto, youth environmental education in Bali, community cleanups in Singapore, community gardening in New Orleans, corporate responsibility in London, trash collection and recycling in Iran—the stories seem endless.
Whatever changes the earth has in store probably won't change the fact that there's this hunk of rock floating around the sun in space. But whether or not that rock harbors some 8.7 million species, or none at all—that is something that could change. The earth itself—and life itself, as some would point out—is resilient. Humans, as a species, are also remarkably resilient, capable of wonderful adaptations and creative thinking that can help keep our eco-community thriving.
One of the ways we do this is by changing how we do things. As a species, humans have long demonstrated their resilience in the face of a wide variety of environments, from the hot deserts of the Middle East to the tundras and icescapes of the Arctic. Being omnivores, humans can adapt their diets to match what their local ecosystem provides. And being creative thinkers, humans can adapt the ways they build shelter to meet their needs in just about any climate.
But our homes and our office buildings, our shops and grocery stores, our factories and power plants don't just help us get along in any climate. Designed wisely, they also can help us dramatically reduce the impact we have on our local ecosystem.
And it strikes me that you also are capable of having an impact on the ecological community where you operate. Many readers likely participate in Earth Day and Arbor Day activities—park, trail and river cleanups, environmental education and more. But many of you also try to make a difference in the very buildings that house those programs and the people who put them together.
Every year, as we put together our May issue, which contains the winners of the Innovative Architecture & Design Awards competitions, I think about how so many of these facilities—everyday buildings that are heavily used by their communities—are constantly raising the bar to show what can be done to reduce energy consumption, to reduce indoor air pollutants, to waste fewer resources and more.
Many of this year's winners are either LEED certified, working toward LEED certification or designed with eco-friendly goals in mind. It's rare to come across a recreation facility that hasn't been designed with the goals of wasting fewer resources, conserving more energy or letting in more natural light. And many of our winners over the years have found unique and creative approaches to reach these goals—from geothermal systems to innovative reuse of existing structures and materials.
The myriad solutions design teams and recreation, sports and fitness facility owners come up with to address our ever-changing priorities have always impressed, and sometimes, surprised me. Turn to page 18, and see if some of them surprise you, too.
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