Planning for a new generation

Cultures that have survived for thousands of years teach respect for planning. A recent trip to four countries demonstrated how thoughtful planning and good design can last for centuries. Planning not just for today and tomorrow but planning for generations hundreds of years from now.

This level of planning and design creates doors that work without repair for hundreds of years, hardware that lasts for thousands. This way of thinking impacts humans of every culture and time.

In some airports, water machines are provided so that passengers fill their own water bottles. After passing through security, expediting TSA lines, they reducing the need for plastic water bottles. The airport saves on having to collect and transport empty bottles. The community saves the cost of recycling bottles. It also saves the enormous costs of moving water around the planet using expensive hydrocarbon plastic and heavy carbon footprint fossil fuels. It saves the ocean from more plastic.

Some schools are using the water machines in place of fountains and are saving tens of thousands of bottles every year. A single water filling machine saves hundreds of dollars in water bottle costs and thousands of bottles prevented from entering landfills and the oceans. The Hyatt has water machines and enjoys the savings to themselves and the community. They also converted a tennis court to a hydroponic greens farm.

Despite overcast weather during much of the year, in Amsterdam, solar powered buses are used at the airport and even the jetways that service the planes are individually solar powered. Solar power is dependent on the photo energy reaching the planet, not on perceived sunny days.

In Switzerland, McDonald’s has solar powered trash compactors. Each unit was freestanding and had a single cell on top. Thoughtful design is at the heart of the extensive train and bus systems which provide inexpensive monthly or annual passes for local residents while charging visitors and tourists a much higher rate, generating significant tourist revenues without choking the narrow roads

Switzerland takes recycling very seriously. Residents must buy a sticker that goes on each and every garbage bag, costing about $.35. Each garbage bag is examined before tossing to make sure no recyclables are added. If recyclable goods are found in the trash, the bag is sealed up returned to the owner’s doorstep with a fine of 100 francs. This saves a small country local landfill costs.

In Austria, the historic national Parliament buildings need to be restored. After hundreds of years of useful service, both population and needs have expanded. During the three year renovation, the Austrian Parliament is building large, temporary pop-up buildings which are prefabricated. These will be placed in a nearby park to utilize during the three-year rebuilding period so that government can proceed undisturbed. They have begun excavating the archaeological site, so that the foundations of previous civilizations from Roman, through medieval to modern times can be examined, recorded and studied.

Through careful planning, the new Parliament building is designed largely of glass for energy purposes and to symbolize the commitment to transparency of government and public service. One stunning feature of the planning is that the temporary buildings are prefabricated and modular so that at the end of three years of temporary use, the buildings will be disassembled, and rebuilt into schools and public buildings using the same prefabricated modules and lumber.

The Austrian government takes spending very seriously, and a stringent economy has them look at utilization of resources. The amount of spruce that will be used in the lumber for the building of the temporary buildings is equivalent to 30 minutes of growth in the Austrian forests, so even the sourcing of the building materials is taken into consideration.

A fascinating planning story is that of the Oxford University New College dining hall. A huge structure nearly 400 years old, it utilizes enormous oak beams of such size and length, they are nearly impossible to find today. When the library structure suffered damage from wood boring beetles, the trustees were at a loss to find the materials to rebuild it.

The extensive holdings of the university were surveyed, and one of the foresters reported that there was no problem, because when the university was built, they had at the same time (400 years prior) planted an entire oak forest to replace the wooden structure as repairs were needed.

While this story has been challenged, it demonstrates the thinking that had Polynesians and Hawaiians plant coco palms and taro to provide for future children. This type of planning requires a longer point of view then mere sound bites or a single election cycle.

As we plan for Kauai’s future, we need to consider the children, or as the First People on the Mainland say, seven generations out. Speaking for the unborn, I wish us all great aloha and wisdom as we approach our General Plan.


Virginia Beck is a wellness coach and writer. At Healthy by Design Hawaii, she helps her clients erase stress and design “Lives they Love.” (808) 635-5618.


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