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Home arrow Blog arrow Taliesin West Symposium

Taliesin West Symposium PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Sarter   
Sunday, 20 November 2005
I’ve just returned from a symposium at Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s school of architecture in the Sonoran desert outside of, (or what used to be outside of), of the greater Phoenix/Scottsdale metropolitan area. Unfortunately, the trend there as in many other areas of growth and development, has indeed been “greater”, and grander. 
Hello my friends,

I’ve just returned from a symposium at Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s school of architecture in the Sonoran desert, outside of  (or what used to be outside of) the greater Phoenix/Scottsdale metropolitan area. Unfortunately, the trend there as in many other areas of growth and development, has indeed been “greater” and grander. The theme of the conference was “Doing More with Less, by Design”, and some of the brightest and most forward thinking minds on the planet in the areas of technology, architecture, engineering, and planning were in attendance to work on the increasingly urgent issue of our seemingly insatiable appetite for energy as a culture and as a species. It seems the winds of change may finally be blowing in the right directions. With more and more citizens becoming aware of not just the current energy shortfalls, but the “coming soon to a theater near you” reality of the not too distant end of the oil/energy paradigm, attitudes and habits are showing signs of a willingness to transform. Local governments and now even the Bush administration to some degree is touting conservation of energy.


The nature of the changes that must occur in order for us to achieve a sustainable future for ourselves and our generations to come cannot be accomplished within any one, or even a few sectors of our society. It will take a concerted across the board effort of our culture, in government and private enterprise, in every facet of the way our paradigm exists today. A movement toward reduction of energy expenditure to achieve a fulfilling life, and the more rapidly this occurs the better.

The “American Dream” needs a serious facelift. In part, a re-centering and a return to community based interdependence. A focused effort on the part of all of us to break away from complacency and the status quo, and question the reasons for our consumption of resources. Thinking more efficiently, we have the ability and the technology to indeed do “more with less”, in virtually every area of our daily lives. We all need to become the architects of our future. The choice right now is ours. In twenty years, there will likely be no choice at all. We can begin this re-tooling of our culture now and make it a relatively smooth transition, or wait for the kind of chaos that ensues after a multitude of cataclysmic events such as the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean corridor, combined with increasing and unavoidable energy shortfalls if we stay on our current course.

As a Design / Build professional  in our community, I will be doing what I can within the bounds of financial viability to be a part of the change. It is important to do this within the context of a cost/benefit approach in order to get the mainstream enrolled in the concept. There are some roadblocks in the way, but the technologies and methodologies are more financially achievable every day. There are a great many things that can be done on a non-mechanical systemic approach, utilizing the energy that naturally occurs on a site. Some of these are exceedingly simple, centuries old, and will add very little if any cost, indeed even savings. Then there are new technologies, some of which are  more costly in the initial investment, but are paying back with increasing velocity. Some government incentives exist, but they are currently falling woefully short of what is happening elsewhere in the world.

   There is currently a program in Germany underway; if you produce more energy in your home than you consume, actually selling back power to the utility, you receive 5 times the cost at which you would be billed. Other nations are initiating such incentives as well. As a result, the purchase and installation of photo-voltaic panels, which as you know produce energy from sunlight, is absolutely off the charts in these regions. Due to this, the bulk of that technology in this area developed and produced right here in the U.S. is being shipped overseas, primarily to Germany and Japan. There is up to a one year waiting time to acquire these panels here in the country as a result.

I urge you all, as architects of our future, to contact your local congressional leaders and representatives and ask the question, “why not here?”. On a local community basis, simply ask the question of yourself, “why not less?” Ask employers for telecommute options, producers of food and goods for  local sustainable products to reduce transportation costs, etc. The possibilities are virtually limitless, and the reasons for these changes are all too obvious. We need to stop wasting the remaining energy resources we have while we initiate and develop viable alternative resources. Here’s to us all being the Creators of a “Sustainable Future”!

-John Sarter

Off the Grid Design, LLC

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 16 April 2013 )
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