Smart Design With Suzette: The Future Of Design

Bechtel’s environmental classroom – Smith College A Living Building. Courtesy photo

Smart Design With Suzette

The Future of Design

In reading an article recently about design ideas that matter, I was blown away. All roads lead in the direction of resiliency – not just sustainability, but designing and building for the next hundred years. Architects, designers and developers are creating innovations into the next century. Pretty cool stuff.

Buildings That Produce Their Own Energy

Architect Eric Corey Freed feels that the typical new building is an energy glutton. He says it’s time for a reset. He developed the ‘Living Building Challenge,’ along with a team from Seattle’s International Living Future Institute, that pushes buildings to give back more to the environment than they take. Some requirements include the challenge of creating a building that produces more energy than it consumes and reuses water more than once. As of this date, more than 240 buildings have met the challenge.


Ohmconnect App pays you back when you turn off the lights. Courtesy photo

Pay People To Turn Off The Lights

Two innovators – Curtis Tongue and Matt Duesterberg have a solution to motivate people to save energy – bribe them! They have designed an app, Ohmconnect, that notifies the user when they are using energy from an expensive power plant. The users can turn off lights to reduce the load. It’s as simple as – switch a light switch off and get paid. Visit to find out more.

Minimalism Is Good

Minimalists Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus say their website is about making room for more time, more hobbies, more experiences. What they suggest is extreme to most – packing everything you own into boxes, unpack what you need for 21 days, and donate the rest.

Roofs Solving Our Water Problem

A local landscape designer, Nate Downey, of Permadesign in Santa Fe, is all about the impermeable surfaces: roofs, patios and driveways. He is passionate about collecting rainwater from your roof.

He has a “roof water calculator” on his website You can type in your street address and it will calculate how much rain comes off your roof in a year to make us realize that rain water can be a resource for us.

Rain water can be collected with a cistern and pump or as simple as having a down spout that leads into a trench. The trench can be filled with growstone ( a product made from recycled glass, developed in Santa Fe and manufactured in Albuquerque. This creates an underground sponge that stores water.


Meea Kang’s solar powered building for low income residents in Sacramento. Courtesy photo

Developers Can Be Our Hero

Sustainable housing can be affordable. Several developers in the West have built solar powered buildings that cater to low-income residents. Developer, Meea Kang of Domus Development in Sacramento, is one of them. She tackles projects few others would touch.

Kevin Cavenaugh of Portland’s Guerrilla Development say he buys overlooked buildings nobody knows what to do with and adapts them into homes or mixed-use spaces.


Tiny home structure. Courtesy photo

Tiny Home Craze

People have gone crazy over tiny homes. The tiny home movement has gone from fringe movement to reality show phenomenon and is poised to go mainstream. Tiny House Builders is the current HGTV show that takes you along the way in building a tiny masterpiece. I must say I like the idea of having only 200 square feet to clean.

Looking to the future, architects, developers and designers all agree that increased sustainability, transitional spaces and adaptability will play a big role in design. 

“The ascent of sustainability bodes extremely well for the housing industry and interior design. It takes architecture back to the basic elements, the rudiments of place and design and quality and life: fresh air, massive natural light, strong visual and, if possible, physical indoor/outdoor connections,” said Michael Lehrer, founder and principal of Lehrer Architects. My sentiment exactly!

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