The first season of e² design concludes with a look to the future. "Deeper Shades of Green" focuses on remarkable thinkers and designers of our time: Ken Yeang, Werner Sobek and William McDonough. Nothing short of geniuses, these architects are challenging society and environmental design philosophically, psychologically, technically, aesthetically, politically, and culturally. Each is radically changing the face of not only architecture, but of environmentalism.

Deeper Shades of Green
Episode Trailer 0:30 min
Deeper Shades of Green
Episode Excerpt 3:00 min
Deeper Shades of Green
RSS Feed

Ken Yeang

Yeang has built his career designing ecological buildings for the past thirty years. A principle in TR Hamzah and Yeang, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, since 1975, Yeang has been responsible for over 200 projects internationally and has written over ten books on the subject, including "Designing with Nature" and "The Green Skyscaper". Key projects include the high-rise National Library Board building (Singapore), the 40-story Eco-Tower at Elephant & Castle (London), and the 24-story IBM Building (Malaysia). Yeang received his diploma in architecture from the Architectural Association in London in 1971 and his PhD in architecture from the University of Cambridge in 1975.

William McDonough
Architect & Educator

McDonough is the founding principal of William McDonough + Partners, Architecture and Community Design, an internationally recognized design firm practicing ecologically, socially and economically intelligent architecture and planning in the U.S. and abroad. McDonough is a winner of three U.S. presidential awards: the Presidential Award for Sustainable Development (1996); the National Design Award (2004); and the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award (2003). Time magazine recognized him as a "Hero for the Planet" in 1999, stating that "his utopianism is grounded in a unified philosophy that - in demonstrable and practical ways - is changing the design of the world." He co-authored "Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things".

Dr. Werner Sobek
Engineer and Architect

Sobek is a structural engineer and architect and the CEO of Werner Sobek Ingenieure (WSI), founded in 1992. A structural engineering company with offices in Stuttgart and Frankfurt, Germany, New York City, WSI specializes in the design and engineering of lightweight load-bearing structures, especially for high-rise buildings and special structures in steel, glass, titanium, textiles and wood. His philosophy focuses on using minimal resources, being self-sufficient, maximizing daylight in his designs, and respecting the environment. One of Sobek's latest projects is his private residence, R128, in Stuttgart, Germany. This unique experiment is an emission-free home that requires no energy input for heating, is recyclable and transparent, and features all-glass facades.

The National Library of Singapore is an example of Ken Yeang's use of "Bio-Climatic," a systematic understanding of the role climate can play in finding forms and technologies that are energy efficient and that enhance the quality of life for occupants. He incorporates vertical landscaping (14 multilevel gardens throughout the building), mechanisms to reduce solar heat gain, extensive natural ventilation and lighting, and an active intelligent building system (automatic blinds that adjust sunlight and escalators that stop when no one is on them). By imitating nature, Yeang creates an urban environment that becomes a living, breathing organism in itself.

Huangbaiyu Village. Attempting to house over 400 million citizens by 2017, the Chinese government commissioned eco-architect William McDonough to design a prototype village based on his "Cradle to Cradle" principles. The rural area of Huangbaiyu near Benxi City in Northwest China's Liaoning Province was selected for the first demonstration village. Recently breaking ground, the village aspires to be powered by the sun and built of materials that can be reprocessed into new goods. The idea is that everything is reused-either returned to the soil as nontoxic "biological nutrients" that will biodegrade safely or returned to industry as "technical nutrients" that can be recycled. By incorporating renewable materials, alternative energy, agricultural protection, and community planning, Huangbaiyu has the possibility to redefine itself economically, socially and environmentally, and to become an entirely sustainable village.

R128. On the steep hilltop overlooking Stuttgart, German engineer and architect Werner Sobek designed a jaw-dropping steel-and-glass box as his family residence. Historically, glass houses have stood as the epitome of the modernist structure. Unfortunately, such dwellings were often seen as uncomfortable to live in: too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Sobek set himself the formidable challenge of starting with the famous typology of the glass house, but making it supremely energy efficient. Its roof is covered with solar cell panels that provide virtually all the building's energy needs. R128 is the prototype for Sobek's even more ambitious project, R129.

-"How do we love all the children, of all species, for all time? That's the fundamental question. And can my design do that? "-


-"This question of how do we live tomorrow, how do we work tomorrow or the day after tomorrow? This is simply the thing which interests me."-



They use 40% of the world's energy, emit 50% of its greenhouse gases.

"They" are not the cars we drive. "They" are the buildings where we work, live, and grow. Buildings designed with an unconscious disregard for nature.

Adopting sustainable alternatives is not only a matter of progress, it's a matter of survival.

Design: e2, the economies of being environmentally conscious.




Buckminster Fuller once said "I look for what needs to be done. After all, that's how the universe designs itself."

With more people living on earth than ever before, the planet has never been under such stress.

How can we live in harmony with our earth?

We must transform the way we think and act; introduce ourselves to new worlds. worlds of three visionaries who realize there's no time like the future.



Wind, rain and sun. To the mind of most architects, they are the enemy. But what if buildings could respond and utilize the conditions of their environment. What if the urban environment itself became a living, breathing organism? To Ken Yeang, it is.

I started work on the idea of bionics, I think, in 1971. I started looking to ways human beings imitate nature. And so one of the things I studied at the time was the idea of the prosthetic device. So you may have prosthetic arms or prosthetic knee caps. You have prosthetic hip joints, you have prosthetic hearts, you know, and so forth. And what occurred to me is that the prosthetic device has to integrate with a host, an organic host body, which is the human body. It then occurred to me that in a similar way that everything that we build, equivalent to prosthetic devices and our host organism for our built environment is the earth, is the biosphere. And the successful integration is the eventual success of the earth, and the green future.

For the Singapore Library, Yeang's use of Bio-Climatic design showed that a structure could not only benefit humans, but also indigenous plants and animals; resulting in a benefit for all.

We had some 40 expressions of interest when we first started the project. Six were finally selected to actually create a pitch as well as a design competition perspective and from that we actually chose Ken Yeang to be the architect of design. And I remember when I first met him when I ask him say "How you gonna make a building that will meet users' requirements?" He says well, "I can do that. I would also like to make a building that is actually green and stands its test of time." But at the same time he can make the building look nice because the users would like to have the building look nice as well.

Designing with the climate is really low-tech design. But in the 60's, energy became so cheap so an architect could basically build or design whatever he wanted and create whatever forms he wanted and forget about climate. You know, who cares because we could just use up more energy and air condition the whole place or heat it up a little bit more in winter. So looking at traditional systems that people have been using intuitively that we forget. So there are many of these low- tech systems that just need to be revived, restudied and reinvented for contemporary uses. And so these are some of the systems that I'm looking at and actually experimenting with in my work.

In many ways architecture is trying to achieve a fit between the site constraints and the glass requirements with what you propose to design. And so the more technology, the more systems that we have, the greater will be the fit. And so the objective is to be as fine a fit as possible.

We'd been involved right from the start when Ken was just sketching out ideas as to how the building should look. And, he said, how can we really incorporate your technology into my designs so that I don't see anything. So that it just looks like a really fantastic building. In terms of intelligent design and intelligent façade, it's way ahead of its time. In terms of what we're controlling inside of all the mechanical and electrical systems, the air-conditioning, it's pretty well state of the art. All of the technology in a building that you might call intelligent or smart, should be invisible. And the people that are managing, owning or occupying the buildings should not be aware of all of the technology that's there controlling the environment. I mean there's examples of where you can use automatic shading, automatic glass that sort of tints to reduce the glare in a room or reduce the energy consumption. And all of these things are getting to be invisible to the user. For instance, a very obvious one is the fact that the escalators here stop automatically if there's no one on them. And they start again when people approach. So there's a big energy saving there. An obvious one but a very practical one too. We can save up to 80% of the energy that a building uses by intelligent, clever design, by integrating all of those functions. You can save a lot of energy in a building.

For instance, the idea of having these what are called light shelves - that's low tech. You know it's a way of throwing light into the insides of the building. And so by doing this you reduce the need for artificial lighting.

It means that only for 50 minutes during the whole day, direct sunlight might touch some of the spaces in the building where people might be using it. But even that was not true because in those 50 minutes automatic blinds would come down and so therefore it's a very comfortable environment for the user throughout the day itself. And where you don't need lighting to be put on during the day itself. It's natural lighting that does it. Once again you save operating funds. It's all these things that we have to wrestle with - architectural, engineering, orientation, people's visions, building planning conditions and it costs actually less than it started off with which is quite delightful.

If you notice the building it has this ventilating shaft in between. You know this atrium which is between the collections block and the programming block there's actually a non air-conditioned space. By doing this we create a ventilated shaft here so the wind can go all the way up and at the top of the building it's a room which is not, well it's a semi-perforated - it has louvers. So the hot air doesn't accumulate on top it goes all the way out. So the wind goes below and it goes in between and out the top. So in this way we increase the surface area of the building to enhance its natural ventilation and to try and cool the building. To reduce the energy required to air condition the building. So in this way the building really is a tropical building which is not just tropical in the way it relates to the climate but its also a building where people experience the climate as they walk towards the building and enter the building.

There are actually 14 gardens spread out within the spaces of the building and only one of those gardens, well actually two of those gardens are on the ground level. The rest of them are scattered all throughout the building itself. So it does create an environment of greenery, as you are in the library to do whatever you are doing in the library.

The spaces are really social zones for people to come from the outside and to go you know from the inside and go outside and enjoy the space and enjoy the climate really and enjoy the vegetation. If we could actually we should try to recreate the quality of the location before it was devastated by human beings. It's the first step in integrating the natural with the human layer. You know. The next step, this next stage is to systemically integrate it and then to make use of green world harvesting and to make even you know the walls grow if you can.

See nature existed in a state of symbiosis or stasis before we human beings started to disrupt nature. And so what we've done is that we've disrupted the cycles of nature, the processes of nature and so what we should try to do is to bring as much organic components as possible into the built environment to integrate the two together. And so integration to me is the single greatest issue that we have to address as green designers. If we're able to integrate everything that we do in our built environment, with the natural environment, then there won't be any environmental problems at all. But I think the green building of the future will be totally different. How to integrate the systems and materials with the ecological systems in the biosphere. We're talking, rethinking and re-examining of how we put buildings together. Everything in nature's connected. Either physically or climatically. The whole world is connected, if you like.



So if everything is connected, can we transform the world through ecologically intelligent design? To Architect William McDonough, we must not only embrace new philosophies, but also innovative business strategies to re-shape the world economy. His co-authored book, "Cradle to Cradle", looks at how goods and services can generate not only economic value, but also ecological and social value.

The problem with recycling as we conventionally practice it, or characterize it, is that in most cases it's really what we've characterized as "down cycling." The materials are losing their quality as they go through the system. We're calling for what we call "up cycling." So it's either true recycling or even getting the product better. A bottle for example - take a look at this bottle. This is polyester terepthalate. It contains antimony, which is a toxic heavy metal which is a result of catalytic reaction. The catalyst that is used. This is idiotic, because I don't need antimony in this bottle and it's a beautiful material and can be infinitely reused but right now this will go off and become a park bench. It won't be reused as this, plus its got this slightly toxic material. It doesn't affect you drinking the water but it does affect the whole system. The system is contaminated by a carcinogen, which is just bad design. It's totally unnecessary.

In order to be a living thing, you have to have growth, you have to have free energy from sunlight, and you have to have an open system of chemicals operating for the benefit of the organism and its reproduction. So what Dr. Michael Braungart and I are looking at with Cradle to Cradle, is the idea that human artifice could follow the laws of life itself. And we would need growth, free energy from sunlight and an open system of chemicals that are safe and healthy.

So the real question becomes when do we find ourselves in kinship with the natural world. When do we find ourselves as part of the natural world? And that's why Cradle to Cradle is so important. In nature, nature's not efficient, it's effective. So a cherry tree in the spring is not very efficient. Thousands of blossoms so you can get one tree to reproduce? It's not that interesting as far as efficiency goes but it's magnificently effective. So we're looking at both human technology in terms of our comfort and our ability to thrive as a species, but also how would we integrate that into the natural world without destroying it? That's a fundamental question that we haven't asked as a species. We become part of the human resource of the natural world instead of simply seeing nature as natural resources of the human one.

Well Cradle to Cradle is a simple, commonsensical approach which says things either go back to soil safely and forever or back to industry safely and forever. So we design products that were gonna end up in the dirt like a paper plate. Why not design that with a little nitrogen in it so that when you throw it away the farmers want it. If we look at the products like cars or computers, those are things that wanna go back to being cars and computers so right now they become toxic waste. Why couldn't they go back into closed cycles? We see this happening as a small part of something really huge that's pretty much out of control.

Design today must reflect a new spirit. By employing the intelligence of natural systems, we can create industry, buildings, even regional plans that see nature and commerce not as mutually exclusive, but mutually co-existing.

The first industrial revolution was an aggregation of a lot of individual acts based on specific opportunity. It wasn't designed as a whole system. And now that we've seen the result of the whole system, of the first industrial revolution, based on brute force, and the use of fossil fuels, we should stop, take a breath, or try to anyway, and say, wait a minute, you know was this designed, was it our intention to release mercury? Was it our intention to cause climate change? Was it our intention you know, to pollute the oceans? I mean there's six times as much plastic as plankton in the Pacific gyre, north of Hawaii right now. I mean did we intend that to happen? You know so the first industrial revolution was not designed. So when we call for industrial re-evolution, what we're looking at is to look at the whole system and say if we could design a whole system of industry, how would we power it, how would we make things, how would we act. And that way we can have a vision toward which we can move a new industrial revolution. We're not asking everyone to become an expert at everything. We're asking everyone to understand that they can use the benefit of other people's expertise so that they don't become monolithic. Whereas what we're looking for is the best and the brightest coming together in multi-disciplinary teams.

Implementing these ideas we can design products that are continually recyclable and transform our current industrial system of "take, make and waste". Done intelligently, we would see as consumption increased, so would the health of the planet.

Well it's all really common sense. I mean every time we talk to children, they go well obviously. So the children get this immediately it's the entrenched practitioners that have difficultly imagining doing something different. How do we love all the children, of all species for all time? That's the fundamental question. And can my design do that? Is it about love of all children of all species for all time? Not just our children, not just our species and not just now. I consider myself just cosmic dust. You know over 2 billion years we've aggregated into this form and in the next 2 billion years we'll de-aggregate into dust again so it's really a question of the game. Which game are you playing? And for me the game is a game that's optimistic and hopeful, because I don't want to play a pessimistic and a game of destitution. So I have to wake up every morning and be optimistic. I'm a designer.



Bringing the skills of an engineer to architecture and the vision of an architect to his work as an engineer, Werner Sobek, straddles two parallel disciplines; disciplines whose ethical obligations intersect at material innovations, social relevance and respect for the environment.

When the house was delivered, the steel structure, my wife called me up and said, "The contractor promised us to deliver the house today. What came around the corner is only a part of it. There's a little material on a big truck. You should call him up and tell him that he should deliver the rest at the latest, tomorrow." So I called him up and he said, "We delivered everything." It was all on one truck. It's just 10 tons. The primary structure is exclusively bolted. No welding, no gluing, nothing. But you make this mount, this structure, piece by piece and re-use the elements or bring them to a recycling plant. So it's already from its conception a low energy building. Zero energy needed to heat or to cool the house. We provide our own electricity by photovoltaics. We have our own fresh air supply and we have no emissions. The building has no chimney. So it's the right thing to be placed on a green incline like this one.

We have the luck here to live in the middle of the nature and to experience nature as changing of the light intensity, changing of the color of the light, laying in your bed and experiencing the snow flakes blowing around the house. So this brings us very, very close to what's going on with the outside. And this is a very, very positive experience.

What we did here is we transferred the transparency into the third dimension. So looking criss-cross, up and down, diagonal through the building is, at least in my opinion, a big step forward. Which comes very close to the living in a soap bubble, which I'm always intending. This question of how do we live tomorrow, how do we work tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, this is simply the thing which interests me. And what is the architectural implication of those changes.

How will we live tomorrow? In R129 Sobek explores the idea of completely living off the grid and in harmony with nature.

This is really the first application of load bearing glues in such a dimension. This is by the way the thinnest glass shell ever built. The thickness of the material is 10mm in total and the span is 8 meter 50, which is a 10th of an eggshell. It's paper thin. This of course is the first step to realize glazed elements, glazed shells in a diameter of 20-25 meter, as R129 is. But it is also an experiment to show that you can cover hotel atria, swimming pools and other things like this with a non-metallic enclosure.

The next idea would be to do a mono-space which even has no furniture, but the furniture automatically folds and unfolds out of the floor or from the ceiling. Where you have multifunctional furniture. The place is simply empty and then you make a kitchen out of it or you make a living room out of it or a sleeping place out of it. The next step would be, just as an experiment, not as a must but as an experiment to find out what would it mean if you do not have any contact with the building to the public supply systems, to the public grid, means produce your own, clear water, manage your own waste water and be totally independent like a space station. The thoughts we have to develop there are the same as I mentioned for the next steps for R129 - independency from the public grid. So in our Institute, we discuss these things and we look below the stones and we turn the stones around and we try to find out what is possible in a very radical approach. Not our research for this afternoon - our research for the day after tomorrow.

At the Institute for Lightweight Studies, at Stuttgart University, Sobek leads his students in a multi-disciplinary approach, devising efficient and sustainable solutions for the building of the future.

We try to enable our students to manage the most complicated, to design the minimum weight structure, which is for structural engineers one of the most complicated things you can do. Is it possible that one element that is highly loaded to its maximum at one time and all the others are totally under loaded, shares the job it has to do with the other ones. By, for example, an artificial weakening of this highly loaded element through its transferring loads to the under loaded ones. And if you do it in a clever way, you might save another 50% of material.

This is um trying to show how efficient you could build using adaptive elements. And you have one support that's able to move and you have sensors and they're measuring the load of the train in every location and the computer calculates how much this support has to move backwards and forwards to introduce a bending line, which is exactly the opposite of the one introduced by the train. So it always goes horizontally. So it's always showing the passive state, meaning without manipulation and then coming back you have the active state where you manipulate the system. What you do is you substitute material with energy but what you can see here is you don't really need big movements in order to achieve a big change in the system.

If somebody comes up and says how do I learn to design with a minimum material input? You won't learn that in the architectural faculty. Tell him to go to the aeronautics. He will learn it there. This is what I mean. Teamwork means a common language and this is a question of education only. Bring the students to the point where they understand what their basic discipline has to do and can do and where the limits are, is the one thing. But what you have to do is enable the students to understand the neighboring disciplines.

For me, everything installed in this nature as a piece of the built environment, needs a designer responsible for it. And you can't be responsible for a piece of the built environment if you are not educated to design it. Educated in the sense of make it stable, make it beautiful, make it recyclable, make it low energy or even zero energy and emission. If you really want to reach a goal, then you can do it. If you want to create something there's always a solution. You just must to want it. This is what I'm telling the students.



Brad Pitt

Tad Fettig

Elizabeth Westrate

Karena Albers and Tad Fettig

Richard Allen

Robert Humphreys

Beth Levison

Eva Anisko
Midori Willoughby

Julie Kirsner

Adam Elend

Phillip G. Bernstein

Mark Decena

Eric Holland

Michael Schuler

Kurt Schlegel

Joachim Knaf
Calvin Koh

Ben Clore
Nguyen Ha Minh
Bernd Schmidt

Outsider, Inc.

Michael LaBellarte

Rene' Steinkellner

Lucas Lee Anderson
Hideaki Charles Sato

Vagabond Audio
Drew Weir

Outsider, Inc.
Christopher Mines

Aharon Bourland

Patrick Cribben
Brandt Gassman
Ah Soon

Susan Chau
Rebecca Israel
Daniel Martinez
Megan Paulus
Jeff Polley
Mary Sack

Sara Barnes
Marsha Talcin

Edward Albers
Jessica Berman-Bogdan
Reginald Curtis
Heather Morrison
Emer Nuala O'Donovan

Brian Heidelberger
Susan L. Storiale
Steven Worth

Yung Ho Chang
Frank Heinlein
Brent Pickett
Eve Charlotte Bolger

Getty Images
Werner Sobek Ingenieure

This program is produced by kontentreal LLC, which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2006 kontentreal LLC
All Rights Reserved

Deeper Shades of Green

Episode Trailer 0:30 min

Deeper Shades of Green

Episode Excerpt 3:00 min