Ecosystem Services – Auditing Resources

Not just beautiful, but functional as well? Who'da thought? Personal photo from Prince Edward Island 2010

Ecosystem services are integrated into all of the most fundamental concepts of sustainable or ecological thinking, and yet are probably poorly understood by most designers. “Ecosystem service” is a broad label used to describe, and anyone out there correct me if I’m wrong, the tangible resources and processes provided by any given natural location. These may include capturing and processing water, converting sunlight to energy, and the many nutrient cycles, such as carbon and nitrogen. But even this is a very simplistic view, as researchers are developing global models that highlight ecosystem services that effect the world wide temperature, hydrological and air flows, and more.

For most designers this an overwhelming array of information. How and where to start using this information is extraordinarily difficult. But how to find it is even harder. Some approaches have started by monetizing the intangible effects of ecological services, but I’ll focus on that in a later post. What I want to share in this post a resource that I found that is developing tangible tools for measuring the services of ecosystems and the impact design actions will have.

ARIES – ARtificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services

The movie above is pretty wild and ambitious, the link to their web site is here, see the blurb below;

ARIES redefines ecosystem services assessment and valuation in decision-making. The ARIES approach to mapping benefits, beneficiaries, and service flows is a powerful new way to visualize, value, and manage the ecosystems on which the human economy and well-being depend.

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of these tools, and very possible to imagine Autodesk integrating this modelling capacity into their CAD programs for architects and urban planners.

For some really juicy reading dive into their case studies.

F.I.T. Fully Integrated Thinking

HOK Architects are beginning this conversation, having formed a break out group for some of their biomimicry and sustainability inspired designers who are developing specific tools to embed ecosystem services into the design brief and criteria of their project. Tremendously ambitious, and something that I am trying to follow in detail.

Unfortunately the web site has gone a little dormant, so I may have to do some proper investigation to find out more.

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