The Emergence of Green Makerspaces

Saving money using the power of creativity and green place


There is a new opportunity for green builders and developers that is more than a budding phenomenon around the world: Green makerspaces, which look at nature, socioeconomic forces and the built environment in a new way.

Working as the lead instructor at the Los Angeles Trade Technical College Architecture and Environmental Design Program creates an adventure every day. For over 29 years, our courses have focused on improving the social conditions in our surrounding communities while fulfilling their instructional purposes. Our hands-on approach in a trade college environment is at the heart of this innovative approach. Some projects include: super shade structures, a landscape design-build project for our campus, tiny houses, net zero “granny flats,” a smart vertical trellis, an historic house restoration, a pocket park, green alleys, a digital virtualization of all nine Los Angeles community colleges, Water Collectors Bridge, Los Angeles Neighborhood Council decision-making maps, educational murals incorporating a fabric that cleans the air, Black Panther memorial, recycled Amazon cardboards into biomimicry chairs and more.

Each project creates a challenge and thanks to access to geospatial technology, hundreds of online learning resources, biophilia/biomimicry thinking, and a very diverse student body, these achievements are a total success. The diverse student body is composed of a mixture of veterans, recent immigrants with degrees from around the world, contractors, creative graffiti artists, ex-felons, retrained software workers and traditional transfer students among others. This close engagement with the community and our 100% transfer and job placement success have made our architecture and environmental design program a perfect prototype space for an eco-design innovations incubator.

Green makerspaces are part school, part entrepreneurial business, and part laboratory. Green makerspaces do both learning and doing and the only way to learn is by doing. They are fabrication workspaces where people meet to share resources and knowledge. Green makerspaces look at nature, socioeconomic forces, and the built environment in a new
way. Nature-guided systems reward energy savings, demand material efficiency, discourage waste, and transform consumption-oriented economies into creative local manufacturing economies. For economic forces, nature-inspired and guided Green makers align procedures and technology, ensure that natural resources are used wisely, improve business performance, facilitate core services, and guarantee efficiency.

For social purposes, such as for youth and nontraditional students, the technologies used and further developed by Green makers present immense new visual computation. Students gain a sense of ownership through creativity and design. To maximize product life cycles, Green Making uses enterprise strategies, national intelligence, and high-level standards to assess, design, produce and display innovative solutions. Green makerspaces identify indicators for the best urban interventions that can bring each community into balance. This type of comprehensive technology- and nature- guided thinking is complex, but with today’s understandings and capabilities it is deployable.

Green makerspaces facilitate the study and practice of biophilic and biomimicry design and making, and will help create a future human-plus world that mimics nature and its processes. The places we live, work and play — and more than ever, where we breathe — resonate at a cellular level and affect our senses, health, creativity, and performance. This growing understanding of human responses to the built environment is well understood in neuroscience by notable studies by Christopher Alexander, emeritus professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

Makerspaces are an international movement gaining much attention around the world. In 2015, more than 80 researchers met in Europe to explore how makerspaces sustain and expand their commitment to sustainable developments.

Green builders and developers should consider creating a center or network to develop and nurture green makerspaces as a strategy for sector success.

Green builders and developers should consider creating a center or network to develop and nurture green makerspaces as a strategy for sector success. Green makerspaces lower the cost of operation and maintenance of facilities and spaces, produce communities that thrive, create a sense of ownership for low-income residents, facilitate sustainable living for 55+ communities, accelerate health-related interventions for clients and residents of homeless centers, and produce high-end design for new-millennium ecovillages and intentional communities. Green makerspaces are about abundant creativity and savings on operation. As Nobel Prize winner Henry Bergson pointed out, human evolution is based on the creative impetus.

The Los Angeles Trade Tech College Architecture Program is also leading the way for Careers by Design LA, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s workforce initiative to achieve the outcomes of the new national Green New Deal.

Marcela Olivais an LACCD/LATTC architecture professor, USGBC-LA board member, and Lead to Careers by Design Los Angeles (CDLA) Mayor’s Green New Deal Workforce Initiative.

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