Swimming Upstream in Sustainable Design

Azam Khan

ACM Interactions


Ballpark figures can often be quite helpful. They set the scope of a conversation so we can see its context and get a general feel for what its implications might be. For example, one could estimate that there are about 20 million designers, engineers, and architects in the world who design everything in the built environment. This is just a ballpark figure based on marketing data, but it can give us a sense of how many things need to be designed. Playing with this metaphor, consider all of the designed objects associated with an actual ballpark: the ball, bats, shoes, hats, clothes, seats, stairs, food and drinks, lights, cameras, the stadium, the cars parked outside the stadium, the electrical and mechanical structures, and the infrastructure supporting them. And this is just one building. Now consider how many buildings, filled with manufactured objects, exist in all of the cities on earth, and you get a sense for what has been created in the built environment. 


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