"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." —John Muir
This Muir quote does a great job of defining sustainability, triple bottom line planning and just plain common sense. Additionally, as we are reminded in the book “This Spaceship Earth,” we are "crew” on this planet, not just passengers who can sleep our way through the journey. "This Spaceship Earth" makes it clear that we are all hitched together—and not just to one another, but to the world we inhabit: the water, air, soil, flora and fauna, affecting planetary bodies beyond our thin, habitable layer as well.
Buildings are like this. Take one element of a building, such as the type of window, and change the window’s functional attributes or performance ratings. That will affect view, solar heat gain, comfort of the occupants, sizing of HVAC systems, the code review and even the manufacturing and material sourcing. It is not just a window, but one component of the building energy system and a connector of the occupant to earth and sky.
Projects are like this. The most successful projects in business, in life, in committee work, are those that seek to achieve cost-effective, optimized results in the long-term view, and that consider as much as possible all the aspects that the project affects and all that can affect the project. We have to expand our teams and ask more questions. Seek broad and deep levels of input from your stakeholders.
Relationships are like this. The deepest and most fulfilling relationships have many layers and embedded influences in our lives. Some of these influences are supportive and generous, and some cause negative ripples for years. The characters most deserving of our pity in literature and song are those who are not “hitched” to those around them, either by circumstance or by their own actions.
Simply put: we need to be engaged with one another and our environment, since we are intrinsically connected. If every project requires insights beyond our own capabilities and if each building is tied to the aspects of nature around it, we have the power to make the changes we seek. We are crew. We have the responsibility to understand and strengthen our connections and our effects. All hands on deck.