Universal Design Newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 8 (Oct. 2009)
Is UD Green?
By John P.S. Salmen, AIA
Inevitably, this question must be raised. As public awareness of green design swells to a tidal wave, many Students of UD think we see the next wave approaching – and its name is Universal Design.
But how do these waves relate to each other? Are they random swells? Or caused by undersea movement of the earth’s crust?
Valerie Fletcher, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Centered Design, and Elaine Ostroff, Founding Director along with Eric Mikiten, AIA of the Bay Area COTE, believe that they are both connected to the earth shaking movement of Sustainability. Eric presented his overview in detail at the AIA 2009 convention.
The trefoil logo, developed by the Department of Public Works of Queensland,
Environmental sustainability relates to the green movement and natural resource conservation and efficiency. Economic sustainability relates to concepts of life cycle costing, equity and fair trade value of products and services.
Social sustainability relates to systems that support people by creating safe, secure and independent communities.
When compared to financial and natural resources, human ability is arguably the most precious resource of all. Human ability is enabled, supported and encouraged by a universally designed environment that gives everyone the opportunity to participate with a minimum of outside support. Just as we must conserve our natural resources, we must also conserve our human resources. It is a waste of human potential to create environments that demand dependence when a simple change in the design of the path, space or element could allow un-assisted use. Like “green design” universal design must be an integral part of design programming and the imaginative design process. It cannot be left as an add-on in a minimal compliance mode.
The relationship between two people who are locked in the care giver/receiver dance, while frequently a loving and enriching experience, is difficult, uncomfortable, and too often destructive of human dignity.
As we struggle to make the most of limited resources, the value of universal design as a tool to conserve human resources will become increasingly apparent, and its relationship to the broader goal of sustainability will become clear.
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