Images: Jesse Nickerson and Godfrey Reggio from the Qatsi Trilogy. 
Text and collages by Jesse Oona Nickerson, LEED AP
Happy New Year from ZDS! We have entered 2009, which symbolically has come to represent the turning of a page. We are only a few days away from Martin Luther King’s birthday and from Barack Obama’s inauguration. As we look to shift from the old polluting way to a new era, we ask ourselves what our professional responsibility to promote change is and how we can contribute to our society through our practice of architecture. We are inspired by President Elect Barack Obama to renew our commitment to social and environmental sustainability.
ZDS is a carbon neutral company. By calculating our carbon emissions and transferring their direct cost to Net Green, a Seattle based company that funds nonprofit organizations that promote renewable energy, we offset carbon in form of greenhouse gas to our environment.
In our projects we support environmental and social sustainability from the design phase to the built project. We participated in Seattle’s affiliate of Habitat for Humanity with the Southwest Roxbury Development– an affordable residential project.
We also partake in the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (USGBC/LEED) effort. ZDS Architects is pursuing LEED Silver ratings for both, Palm Springs Ranch–a high-end residential project–and Washington Wellness Institute–a commercial interior project.
Left to right ZDS projects: Palm Springs; Washington Wellness Institute; HFH SW Roxbury. 
In wanting to reach a broader spectrum, we are motivated by the ideas of Van Jones in his new book “Green Collar Economy” endorsed by Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi. Inspiring advocate and activist, Van Jones is founder of Green for All, a US organization that promotes green collar jobs to the disadvantaged, and Color of Change, America’s largest online advocacy organization that focuses on African American issues.
Jones proposes to jump-start our crumbling economy with a widespread transition to green infrastructure integrating the social justice and environmental movements. By implementing a ‘socially uplifting environmentalism’ Jones addresses two huge issues simultaneously. He describes how “transforming America into a more green society would not only tackle the problem of global warming, but would also reduce energy prices and produce an abundance of jobs that would contribute in turning the economy around”.
We agree with Jones’ statement that “for too long our government has been on the wrong side of the clean energy revolution.” At the same time, President Elect Barack Obama promises to expand the traditional work programs of the middle class by including infrastructure, new-era technology and green jobs that will reduce energy emissions and global warming. This will provide a wide spanning opportunity to fill the decreasing blue-collar job request with the demand for green-collar jobs. In other words, millions of jobs would immediately become available to commence the huge task of sustainably refurbishing our built environment.
Van Jones explains how we cannot expect those who have less to make more conscious choices concerning sustainability, because often that implies a more difficult and costly decision upfront. People who might not have enough to eat will not be concerned about global ecological issues. What is at stake is huge and simply cannot be overlooked. If, through public and private action, we were to address the needs of our buildings, cities, and infrastructure, we would generate jobs and as a by-product save our environment.
Van Jones calls for a New Deal type of economical and financial transformation. He talks about a Fourth Quadrant model, in which on one side of the matrix is grey (industrial=pollution), versus green (ecological=renewable), and on the other rich versus poor. In the past contrast produced problems, alienation and segregation. Through Jones’ model of a green economy, there will be “equal protection for all, equal opportunity for all and reverence for all creation”. What resonates particularly from his words is that the value of life is not reduced to a spreadsheet and just as resources and nature are not renewable, there also are no throw-away children.
Through his focus, and in collaboration with Nancy Pelosi, a legislation is being introduced to sponsor a national corps that will train 30,000 people a year in green trades. Following in this direction from PhD’s down to the lowest classes, people could be employed to transform our built environment and our culture to an environmentally sustainable one, which, coincidentally would save our economy.
“If you learn to install solar panels, you’re on your way to becoming an electrical engineer. If you learn to weatherize windows, you’re on your way to being a glazier, which is a union job… And these jobs aren’t out-sourceable.” With Green Collar Economy, people will realize that “you can make more money if you put down that handgun and pick up a caulk gun.”
 Collage inspired by Van Jones 4th Qadrant: Images by Jesse Nickerson and (2) from the Qatsi Trilogy by Godfrey Reggio.
 ZDS Sustainable Architecture Projects: Palm Springs Residence, image by Ashley Richardson. Washington Wellness Institute, image by Abbey Greenwalt. Habitat For Humanity’s Seattle affiliate, Southwest Roxbury Project, image by Suzanne Zahr Fleming.
Seattle Habitat for Humanity
Washington Wellness Institute