News Brief

Guiding Principles of Sustainable Design

Guiding Principles of Sustainable Design

by National Park Service. September 1993. 118 pages. Limited copies available from the Denver Service Center, National Park Service, P.O. Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225; 303/969-2100. (No charge while initial printing lasts; then copies will be available from the Government Printing Office.)

Strategies for reducing cooling loads in park structures.From Guiding Principles of Sustainable Design.

Guiding Principles of Sustainable Design is one of the most important books to have appeared on the issues of environmentally sustainable design and construction. While written specifically for National Park facility designers and managers, there is much here for the general designer, builder, or developer as well. As stated in the introduction, the purpose of the book is to “provide a basis for achieving sustainability in facility planning and design, emphasize the importance of biodiversity, and encourage responsible development decisions in parks and other conservation areas, particularly where related to ecotourism.”

Guiding Principles is divided into nine major chapters: interpretation, natural resources, cultural resources, site design, building design, energy management, water supply, waste prevention, and facility maintenance and operations. Each of these chapters begins with some general context: why we need to be concerned about water use, for example. Then the format of chapters varies. Some are dominated by charts or tables comparing conventional and sustainable practices, while others are dominated by action steps and specific recommendations. The site design and building design chapters are long on flowery principles and short on specific recommendations. The writing has an architectural feel to it (“the visitor experience…must involve an organic connection with the natural and cultural context of the surroundings…”) that seems pretty far removed from actually pounding nails. The water supply chapter, on the other hand, where the Park Service has obviously had a great deal of experience, has many more specific recommendations.

Throughout the book is an emphasis on education and interpretation to convey to the public an awareness of the environment: the need for reducing water use; the benefits of using locally produced, low-energy materials; why we should recycle waste. Indeed, it makes a great deal of sense that the National Park Service has taken a lead role in promoting sustainable design, given how central the environment is to their mission. But other agencies and companies would do well to use this book as a model for their own design principles for facility planning and construction, and all designers can benefit from reading it.

Published November 1, 1993

(1993, November 1). Guiding Principles of Sustainable Design. Retrieved from

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