Excerpts from “Going Green,” an article and interview with Sim Van der Ryn | Green Building

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Excerpts from “Going Green,” an article and interview with Sim Van der Ryn
By: PJ Bremier, Marin Independent Journal, March 8, 2003

One of the world’s foremost authorities on green and sustainable design and architecture is Sim Van der Ryn of Van der Ryn Architects in Sausalito.An innovative force for sustainability in design, planning, teaching and public leadership for more than 35 years, Van der Ryn was California’s State Architect in 1975, developing the nation’s first government-initiated program for energy-efficient building. He led adoption of energy standards and disability-access standards for all construction in California. As professor of architecture at the University of California at Berkeley for more than 30 years, Van der Ryn established its international reputation for focusing on issues of socially and environmentally responsible design…

IJ: Who are the people you think are top in green design today, and what are they doing?

Van Der Ryn: Green design is not limited to architects and architecture. It includes engineers, inventors, manufacturers, builders, suppliers, developers. The design media tends to focus on design stars and celebrity architects, but green comes about through integrated networks. Organizations such as the U.S. Green Building Council includes all the above types of people.

When I think of green I think of people like professor mehta at UC Berkeley, a leading pioneer in inventing high-strength concrete mixes that substitute fly ash – the residue of coal-fired power plants – for Portland cement. The waste product fly ash is stronger, more durable and easier to place than concrete with only cement in it. Cement manufacture alone accounts for 8 percent of world carbon dioxide emissions.

I think of the folks at Shamrock in Marin – who enthusiastically are adding fly ash to their concrete mix. I think of inventor Jay Harmon in San Rafael, who has invented radically more efficient propellers and fans based on his observation of how fluid moves in nature. I think of Michael Black, whose Blacks’ Farmwood sells a variety of beautiful reclaimed-wood products. I think of Canyon Construction in the East Bay and Redhorse Constructors in San Rafael, whose management actively supports green construction techniques.

I think of a large number of former students of mine who are teaching their colleagues in large architectural firms how to go green. I think of mill Valley’s Randy Hayes, the tireless and tough minded founder of Rainforest Action Network who, when reason fails, uses economic boycott to get major companies such as Home Depot to shift their supply chains to certified lumber. I think of Marin County Community Development Director Alex Hinds and his colleagues in the planning and building departments, who are developing creative ways that the county beauracracy can support green development and building through its regulations.