INTERVIEW: Paul Kephart of Rana Creek

by , 07/05/11

green roof, rana creek, living wall, CABoom, paul kephart, freya bardell, sustainable design, green design, sustainable architecture, green architecture, living roof, green building, natural roofs, sustainable roofs

Paul: We have a number of large scale projects now that are starting to look at integrated designs where we use grey water, and we use the roof as a biofilter for the grey water system; a closed-loop system where the water is then reprocessed and used in the ground plain or it can be used for other applications, water being the most precious resource.

I have been talking about green architecture and ecology and design for a number of years, but it is time to start thinking in the design community about catastrophic episodes and preparedness. How do we design food production within our cities? How do we generate energy, self-sufficiency, and how do we create an environment where people are a lot safer than they are today? It’s not only about ecology, but part of ecology is having a safe place that has stable food and energy and water supplies. That’s going to be key.

And I think our designers – after some of these large-scale events like Katrina and such – are starting to get it. I think it starts with ecology, because it’s a whole systems approach, so it looks at all the different parts of the design process and the natural process. What’s neat is that you can take ecological principles and apply them to architecture. When you think about the program of a structure or building, what about thinking about its natural processes?

green roof, rana creek, living wall, CABoom, paul kephart, freya bardell, sustainable design, green design, sustainable architecture, green architecture, living roof, green building, natural roofs, sustainable roofs

Sarah: Are the food preparedness and energy issues things that you are already integrating into your current projects, or something you’re thinking towards?

Paul: You know what I’m doing is I’m beginning to articulate it. And through that articulation, I’m beginning to understand it; and now I’m beginning to see where the connections are and where we have opportunities. This actually came out yesterday in this design process for an urban application of a police station in San Jose. Here I was promoting the use of indigenous species, specific species from that site that benefit specific invertebrates and organisms — so an actual reverence for the place and the little things that inhabit it. And then I zoomed out and I said, But what about the people? That particular part of the world once had great agricultural production of fruit trees. So why can’t we retain a part of that as a part of our landscape and not just create ornamental landscape? You know, ornamental, in the true sense of the word, is without function or purpose other than adornment and amenity.

So I threw that on the table [in our meeting] and I said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a small grove of fruit trees?” And the answer was that the participants and the people there probably wouldn’t understand it, or they would be afraid of it. That’s how far removed we are from our food production and from natural processes. When I said, ”Well, it could be for the birds,” they said “Oh no, we don’t want birds! Then there would be birds droppings everywhere!”

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  1. Becky Bryan March 29, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    WOW. I am impressed with this guy. No woonder my mother always liked him best.

  2. Inhabitat » INTER... March 23, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    […] which combines the expertise of John Todd’s wetland-based system well as Rana Creek’s rainwater collection and wastewater remediation strategies. The project is truly a feat of not just […]

  3. Michael G. Richard July 28, 2006 at 5:37 am

    Green roofs are definitely up there (no pun intended), IMHO.

    Excellent interview, can’t wait for the rest.

  4. Inhabitat » Blog ... July 25, 2006 at 5:34 am

    […] Last week we published the first half of an interview with Paul Kephart of Rana Creek Habitat Restoration and Living Architecture. Paul has brought his ecological brilliance to the design tables of some of the world’s leading architects. But it’s not just the celeb-scale projects that excite him. In fact, Paul’s enthusiasm is clearest when he speaks of Rana Creek’s public projects, and of introducing principles of sustainability into urban communities where nature is scarce. […]

  5. Owen Schoppe July 24, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    What is troubling is the lack of attention to material. While he talks about going beyond adornment, the building itself is not fundamentally different from those without green roofs; it is still built of steel and concrete and roofed with rubber. Further, the geoweb that can be seen in the installation photos it designed to last 100 years and possibly much longer. What happened to the concept of design for deconstruction? What happens when the building is demolished in 50 years and the soil is filled with petroleum textiles? Sure, green roofs are a great idea, but don’t stop there; the whole building needs to be energy conscious and RECYCLABLE.

  6. Matt Fiori July 20, 2006 at 3:20 am

    I like what you had to say about the “closed-loop” grey water systems; now all we need is to be designing closed-loop energy systems for buildings, where the energy needs of a structure, or group of structures are met through the incorporation of renewable power units and energy efficient design. Decentralized power. Probably not a new concept, but is it going to be done during the upcoming redevelopment of California?

  7. Dick Smith July 18, 2006 at 3:57 pm

    Very impressive!!!! And all I thought he was good at was catching big fish! Shows what I know.

    Can hardly wait for Part II..


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