The University of Chicago
Graham School of General Studies
LAEVED 09W1: Eco Design 101 – Winter 2009
Eric Heineman, 773-576-9835
Borevitz Lab, Erman Biology Center, 1103 East 57th, 2nd floor
January 12th- March 9th, Monday 6:30-9pm
What is Ecological Design?
“Ecological Design is a term that means the design for human settlements that
incorporates principles inherent in the natural world in order to sustain human
populations over a long span of time. This design adapts the wisdom and strategies of the
natural world to human problems” (Todd, J. Eco-Cities to Living Machines, 1993)
This Course will discuss the emerging solutions in the sustainability movement and is
designed to get you thinking ecologically. This course is for students interested in
farming, permaculture, environmental restoration, waste treatment, architecture, green
engineering, renewable energy, landscape ecology, integrated systems, ecovillages, and
the principles of ecological design. Through lectures, seminars, field trips and a design
charette we will develop a framework for understanding the issues and making value-
based design decisions.
Personal Microcosm Project 20%
Living Machine Project 50%
Texts and Supplies:
Companion, Marc. Classroom Eco Machine Owner’s Manual. 1999. Ocean
Arks International. (Provided).
Google Sketch Up. A design program that is free for Windows and Mac at:
Farr, Douglas. Sustainable Urbanism, Urban Design with Nature. 2008. Wiley.
Todd, John. From Eco-Cities to Living Machines: Principles of Ecological
Design. 1993. North Atlantic Books. $19.95
Yudelson, Jerry. Green Building A to Z. 2007. New Society Publishers.
January 12th Week 1:
Introduction to class themes: What is Ecological Design? How does Ecological
Design relate to these times?
Welcome & Introductions: what would you like to learn in this course?
Review syllabus; outline course objectives and expectations; introduce ecological design,
the definition of sustainability, the microcosm project, classroom ecosystems; assign
design precepts, and a field trip to the Experimental Station (if there’s time).
Assignment- Design Project #1: “Microcosm Project”
You are going to design, build, operate and test a microcosm. A microcosm is an artificial
ecosystem used to simulate the behavior of natural ecosystems.
Once establish and many journal entries have been made, you are going to create a
treatment or disturbance of some kind. You will design it based upon the principles
outlined in the article “The design of living technologies for waste treatment” that
appeared in the journal ECOLOGICAL ENGINEERING (Todd, J. & B. Josephson)
Vol.6: 109-122. The article outlines a dozen principles of design most of which you will
incorporate into your counter top systems. Your objective will be to create a robust little
world and then to see how it reacts to change or stress.
At this stage I will not pre-design your systems and influence your design. Be sure and
read over the manual on the web site:
Write up your chapter and submit to me by February 16th at the very latest.
Readings: Part 1/Chapter 1: The Built Environment: Where We Are Today from
Sustainable Urbanism by Douglas Farr.
Page, 169, Table 1. Principles for Designing Living Machines, Eco-cities to Living
Machines by John Todd.
Pages 69-86, The Design of Living Technologies for Waste Treatment, Classroom Eco
Machines Owner’s Manual.
Assignment: Each student will present a product or photo of a product and perform
a life cycle analysis on the object. In addition students will present a precept of
ecological design for January 26th.
January 19th Week 2: (No Class today, MLK Holiday, and H.W.)
No Class, however you will have readings and be expected to present your individual
Precept of Ecological Design.
Readings: Chapter 1: New Alchemy: Where It all Began and Chapter 3: Emerging
Precepts of Biological Design from Eco-Cities to Living Machines. Start reading pages
5-15, in Classroom Eco Machines Owner’s Manual. It can be downloaded at
Assignment: Each Student will study a Precept and Present their Precept during
Week 3 class.
January 26th Week 3:
The Role of Living Machines/Wetlands-Landscape and Economic and Precepts for
Donald Hey is president and co-founder of The Wetlands Initiative as well as the director
of Wetlands Research, Inc. He helps manage the Des Plaines River Wetlands
Demonstration project in Lake County, Illinois, a large-scale wetland restoration project.
He will place the role of wetlands in its landscape and economic context.
Design & Engineering fundamentals
Students will present the 9 Precepts of Ecological Design and their life cycle analysis of a
product of their choosing. I will go over theoretical foundations, complexity and systems
thinking, and parallel fields of practice (permaculture, ecological engineering, holistic
resource management). Afterwards I will Introduce the Design Project-Building
classroom Eco Machines; Design and Engineering fundamentals for building classroom
living machines, the pond metaphor, cellular design, reductionism vs. ecosystems
Assignment- Design Project #2: “Applied Ecosystem of your Choice”
This major project will get you started on designing an ecological technology of interest
to you. Perhaps you want to create an aquaculture & hydroponics laboratory for students.
Or you would like to build a grey water treatment system at your home. Select an
application and then start designing. Topics you will need to cover include:
a) A description of the project. (Due February 2nd)
b) Physical conditions of the site, such as location, climate (does it need a greenhouse?),
amount of sunlight, topography (can water flow by gravity or will pumps be required?),
space available, etc.
c) Engineering parameters. These might include information like the strength and
volume of the wastewater to be treated, the amount of fish to be raised, recirculating or
linear water flow, etc.
d) The mechanical systems. What physical structures will contain the microcosm (tanks,
an outdoor constructed wetland, etc.) How will water flow within the cells? Specify
various hardware, like tanks, pipes, and pumps.
e) The biological systems. What organisms will you need? How will you promote
biodiversity? Design the habitats with the system. Identify nutrient cycles and/or waste
Readings: Read page 18, 30-42 in Classroom Eco Machines Owner’s Manual, page 182-
184 Outdoor Wastewater Treatment: Sustainable Urbanism, and page 185-187 Indoor
Wastewater Treatment: Sustainable Urbanism.
February 2nd Week 4:
What is your ecological footprint? Justin Borevitz, Assistant Professor, Department of
Ecology and Evolution, at the University of Chicago will be guest lecturing about
For this class you will need to calculate your ecological footprint at
http://www.myfootprint.org/ and be able to define what an ecological footprint is.
Readings: Figure 1-9, page 23, Part 1/Chapter 1: The Built Environment: Where We Are
Today and Chapter 2: Where We Need to Go: Sustainable Urbanism.
February 9th Week 5:
Vicki and Ron Nowicki will be presenting on Sustainable Agriculture. They live in a
passive solar designed house, started the “Lets Grow Business Model,” the “Liberty
Gardens Movement”, has been landscaping with permaculture principles in a suburban
setting for over 30 years. Vicki is currently writing a book called, “Revolutionizing the
American Dream.” Her motto is, “Life changes when you grow your own food.” She
currently maintains http://www.libertygardens.com/ and http://holdtonature.com/ a
landscape design/construction business with an ecological conscience.
Readings: Read Chapter Five: The Surrounding Landscape in Eco-Cities to Living
Machines, Page 179-181, Food Production: Sustainable Urbanism.
February 16th Week 6:
Renewable Energy: Geothermal and Wind Energy
Mike Zachar, Director of Social Sciences Division Computing Services at the University
of Chicago lives in a geothermal powered home. His home is 30 years old and was gas
heated until the conversion. Mike designed the system, procured the parts over the
internet, and retrofitted his home to use geothermal to heat, cool, and produce the hot
water for his home. He will be presenting on how he converted his suburban home to run
off Geothermal and why his wife did not kill him.
John Brophy, Director of Voter Registar, and IIT Rep for the M.S. in Environmental
Management and Sustainability program has worked on numerous environmental
campaigns in the U.S. He will be presenting about the state of wind energy.
Readings: None this week, Work on your Design Project #2
Due Today: Microcosm journal entries.
February 23rd Week 7:
Sustainable Urbanism and Transition Communities
Douglas Farr, Farr Associates and author of Sustainable Urbanism will be presenting
about the Sustainable Urbanism movement.
Readings: Chapter 4: Redesigning Communities in Eco-Cities to Living Machines and
page 44-65 in Classroom Eco Machines Owner’s Manual
March 2nd Week 8:
LEED, Sustainable Urbanism
What does LEED mean and what is the LEED process? How is LEED influencing the
Sustainable Urbanism movement? Sean Moran, a LEED Condo Project consultant in
Hyde Park will be guest lecturing.
Readings: Chapter 9: High-Performance Buildings and Infrastructure: Sustainable
Urbanism and Chapters 1-3: Green Building A to Z
March 9th Week 9:
Ecological Design Wrap Up
During our final class you will present your design projects and fill out evaluations.
Readings: Chapter 4: Becoming a Green Building Advocate in Green Building A to Z
Due Today: Design Project #2. You will be presenting your project.