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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Sustainable and Inclusive Design: What We’re Reading

January 31, 2022 Innovation Impact
Two people, one seated and one standing, talk in a sunny office cubicle; drawings and renderings of buildings hang on outside walls

Photograph of the offices of William McDonough, sustainable design architect, taken in September 2008 by Michelle Andonian. / THF56407

In every issue of The Henry Ford Magazine, our staff provide reading, listening, and viewing recommendations. In the June-December 2020 issue, we focused on books (and one resolution) that touch on sustainable and/or inclusive design. See what you think of our selections below.

Resolution 70/1—Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the United Nations (UN)

Group of brightly colored squares, each containing text and an icon
Resolution 70/1 identifies goals essential to the survival of people and the planet. / SDG icons courtesy of the United Nations Department of Public Information

Read this living document that lays out 17 sustainable development goals aimed at mobilizing global efforts to end poverty, foster peace, safeguard the rights and dignity of all people, and protect the planet.

At the heart of sustainable design lies the concept of sustainable development—that the needs of the present should not compromise the resources essential for the future. Sustainable design manages resources with the goal of ensuring their survival for yet unknown needs. This seems essential if the planet is to sustain life in the future.

Yet the idea of sustainable design remains debatable. How do you “value” the sacrifice for future generations? Without quantification, this amounts to a tough sell when others argue in favor of financial gain realized through business practices that exploit natural resources, contribute to the global climate crisis, or line the pockets of a few but leave the majority impoverished.

The United Nations’ call to action, Resolution 70/1—Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, identifies 17 goals around which independent nations can plan and implement actions unique to their cultures and resources. The target date, 2030 (now only 10 years away), becomes even more sobering when you consider the high stakes.

-- Debra Reid, Curator of Agriculture and the Environment

Micro Living: 40 Innovative Tiny Houses Equipped for Full-Time Living, in 400 Square Feet or Less by Derek “Deek” Diedricksen

Three images of interior and exterior of an elevated wooden "tiny house" by a pond and among trees
Images courtesy of Micro Living: 40 Innovative Tiny Houses Equipped for Full-Time Living, in 400 Square Feet or Less and Derek “Deek” Diedricksen

This picture-filled paperback shows the range of tiny houses around the United States and rates them by livability. Deek Diedricksen is a connoisseur of tiny houses. For anyone with even a modest interest in sustainable architecture, this is a fun read, even just to browse through the pictures and floor plans.

--Charles Sable, Curator of Decorative Arts

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Book with blue cover with text and image of flying person with bunny ears and nose, wearing cape and flying

As an accessibility specialist, I am always looking for books that convey the mindset of people with disabilities. El Deafo is such a book. In this graphic novel, author Cece Bell tells her story of growing up deaf and how she was able to channel her differences to feel like she had superpowers.

This captivating book will leave you thinking about the meaningfulness of acceptance long after you finish it.

--Caroline Braden, Accessibility Specialist

At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch

Working alongside some of the world’s most important artifacts related to power and energy, I think often about humanity’s motivations to tame the natural world. The desire to bring light to darkness is an innovation with vast consequences, both environmentally and, as A. Roger Ekirch points out, socially.

His At Day’s Close is an exhaustive look at the social history of darkness and an opportunity for the reader to reflect on possible motivations for the push to illuminate the night.

--Meredith Long, Director of Collections Operations

Books from Our Library Collection

Black-and-white photo of dark-skinned man in suit coat and hat working among plants in a greenhouse
George Washington Carver in a Greenhouse, 1939 / THF213726

Searching for more resources on sustainable design and those innovators past and present who practice it? The Benson Ford Research Center can help connect you with artifacts, articles, and everything in-between The Henry Ford has collected with a sustainability-based theme—some books from our library that fit this topic are listed below. For assistance with access, contact the Research Center.

Merchants of Virtue: Herman Miller and the Making of a Sustainable Company by Bill Birchard

Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective by Carl A. Zimring

Sustainable by Design: Explorations in Theory and Practice by Stuart Walker

Why Design Now? National Design Triennial by Cara McCarty, Ellen Lupton, Matilda McQuaid, Cynthia Smith, Andrea Lipps (contributor)

Design with the Other 90%: Cities by Cynthia E. Smith

Textile Visionaries: Innovation and Sustainability in Textile Design by Bradley Quinn

My Work Is That of Conservation: An Environmental Biography of George Washington Carver by Mark D. Hersey

Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-Century World by J.R. McNeill

This post was adapted from an article first published in the June–December 2020 issue of The Henry Ford Magazine.

design, The Henry Ford Magazine, books

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