I’m listening to one of my favorite episodes of Tech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn’s interview with Michelle Kaufmann about her work with sustainable architecture. Her architecture firm focuses on modular, sustainable design using green materials and processes.

I find this fascinating and even a little exciting on more than one level. First, I am enchanted (although not surprised) to hear architects thinking about these things. Kaufmann’s firm carefully chooses renewable, sustainable materials like bamboo instead of hardwood floors because it grows back so fast. Dual-flush toilets to save water (brilliant! why doesn’t everyone have these?). They build modular components in a controlled factory environment, which allows for efficiencies like precision cuts for less waste, and reduced energy consumption. She likens a site-built house to building a car in your driveway. :)

They’ve published a book about their process, choosing Blurb because just-in-time publishing lets them keep the book up to date without waste. It reminds me of how Flickr chose parters/vendors based on their API because APIs are important to Flickr.

The role of the architect in their work is interesting, as well. Too often writing software is likened to building, well, buildings (why can’t it just be like building a bridge?). In conversations about waterfall methodologies, the analogy is close: an architect throws a design over the wall and the construction engineers take the design and turn it in a building. Writing software doesn’t work like that, of course, so I was glad to hear in the interview that Kauffman stresses the importance of the building contractors getting involved much earlier in the process, and the architect staying involved much longer. It works well for them.

Good show.