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sean michael nelson

eco.loop canyon.ranch.........................................................................................................................13 density.dislocation.................................................................................................................25 water.reuse.recycle..............................................................................................................35 energy...................................................................................................................................45 residence........................................................................................................................55 commercial.....................................................................................................67 final.thought..................................................................................................................73 references............................................................................................................................77



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Change has existed since the beginning of time and will always exist. The inertia of change is guided by our self regulating planet earth. She is only so strong, and has reached a capacity where equilibrium will only be maintained by drastic, severe imminent, changes in the planetary systems that we have always assumed to be permanent and habitual. Now one must consider the design of methods and lifestyles that can potentially lessen the impact of these severe forthcoming changes. We expect the earth to regulate everything for us, she doesn’t mind helping, but we take a lot more than we give back. The bottom line, ‘business as usual’ will soon dig a hole so deep that mankind will not be able to escape. Design resilience is a necessity when envisioning a new framework for our built environment. Our buildings’ heating and electricity requirements contribute to a quarter of our greenhouse gas emissions. (World Resources Institute) It is becoming increasingly clear that we can greatly reduce our impact on the Earth if we begin to design a built environment with symbiotic relationships, to contrast and counteract our current parasitic trends. We cannot predict the future but we can anticipate change and design with resilience. We must let go of our trust in technology as the primary device to solve man-made issues. This strategy proves be a subconscious, instant justification or ‘technological band-aid’ for the damage we cause to our earth. Solutions and innovations are all around us; we just need to follow our gut and take risks. If the idea works, it will stick once given enough momentum and implementation. We must stretch the boundaries of what we currently believe as reality, and acknowledge that we live within a man-made framework, one that should not influence our decision making when trying to mitigate and reverse our impact on the planet.


Ever since the beginning of time man has tackled new and innovative ways to live on the planet. One may think that we are more intelligent than in ancient times, but if asked to live in a cave, find food, produce clothes and fire, most would not be able to carry out such a task and survive. It is all contextual. If we were to live in the same way as we do now, with the total population that existed in the past, we would have no concerns. Unfortunately, current population exceeds the capacity of the earth when one observes the current trends of its inhabitants. Not only is population increasing by more than 200,000 people a day, but is also expected to reach somewhere between 9 and 10 billion by the year 2050. (, UN Forecast). How can we make positive change? One can begin by asking a series of questions: What is our current context? Are there any similar situations that have happened in the past? If so, what did they do? Why did or did it not work? How can we learn from what was done and adapt it to our current context? Is there something that we know that was not understood, that can make our idea fresh and innovative?

When contemplating our role on the planet, we are merely compost, food, or prey contained within a cycle or loop. Why do we use our knowledge to consume the earth of all its resources, constantly contributing to the design of our own demise? If we want the earth to continue to accommodate our needs we must begin to fit within the cycles and closed loops designed by Mother Nature. We have a strong understanding of these cycles at this modern day and age and have many brilliant minds to transpose these concepts into the built environment.

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Green Architecture is not an answer to this problem but an expression that is only one piece in a massive formula for change. Whether a building does amazing things or not, one needs to understand a structure within its contextual constraints, and how these design considerations fit within the ‘bigger picture’, framework or system. One must steer clear of such ‘buzz words’ in current design, they tend to be sustainability placebos, force-fed into buildings. It is an issue of quantitative versus qualitative, one must acknowledge the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts. It is better to have a building that works well, rather than a building with lots of things that does not work effectively, or operate without an expert or specialized technician. For example, the typewriter was designed to slow the operator down so the machine would not jam; the same framework was adopted for the modern computer keyboard, a system that worked was adopted rather than exploring a model that could improve the efficiency of the operator. Not only do we rely on an elaborate vocabulary of placebos, but technology also has a heavy weight on its back. Solutions do not have to be tech-intensive to be innovative. It’s time for change. No matter what scale or intensity, such a mentality must be adopted. As designers we have the capability to influence drastic change in our built environment which can directly and indirectly be implemented to loosen our current vice on the planet. We can mold change on many levels. Even though change of an intense scale is necessary for a softer landing, even the smallest effort will change the severity of the impact and hopefully turn into an exponential phenomenon.



Cedar City was originally settled in late 1851 by Mormon pioneers originating from Parowan, Utah, who were sent to build an iron works. The site, known as “Fort Cedar” or “Cedar City,” was equidistant from vast iron deposits 10 miles west and coal resources 10 miles up Cedar Canyon, but was named after the abundant local trees (which are actually Junipers instead of Cedar). Two companies of men led by Henry Lunt reached the fort site in a blizzard on the 11th of November, 1851, making that date the official founding. In 1855, a new site, closer to the iron works and out of the flood plain of Coal Creek, was established at the suggestion of Brigham Young; present day Cedar City is located at this site. The iron works closed in 1858, though iron mining continued in the area until the 1980s. The completion of a railroad connection to Cedar City in 1923 established the area as a tourism gateway to nearby Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park, in addition to Cedar Breaks National Monument. Cedar City continues to be a center of tourism, commercial development, education and the arts in southwestern Utah. Cedar City is located in the southeast Great Basin, and is about 20 miles north of the northeastern edge of the Mojave Desert. Its elevation is 5,840 feet giving it an extreme climate that is known for its hot, desert summers and snowy winters.

The presence of prehistoric people in the Cedar City area is revealed by rock art found in Parawan Gap to the north and Fremont sites dated to 1000 AD and 1300 AD. Ancestors of the present day southern Paiute Indians met the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition in this area in 1776. Fifty years later, in 1826, mountain man and fur trader Jedediah Smith traveled through the area exploring a route from Utah to California.


As of the census of 2000, there were 20,527 people, 6,486 households, and 4,682 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,021.8 people per square mile (394.5/km²). There were 7,109 housing units at an average density of 353.9/sq mi. The racial makeup of the city was 92.06% White, 2.53% African American, 1.11% Native American, 0.47% Asian, 0.33% Pacific Islander, 1.65% from other races, and 1.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.14% of the population. There were 6,486 households out of which 39.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.8% were married couples living together, 9.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.8% were non-families. 16.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.8% had someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.07 and the average family size was 3.37. Some of Cedar City’s native vegetation includes: Rabbit Brush, Crabgrass, Sagebrush, Cactus, Junipers, Scrub Oak, and a variety of other small weed and desert type flowers including Globemallow. Other vegetation includes a plethora of cottonwoods planted by the pioneers. (United States Census Bureau, wikipedia)

The city has shared in the rapid growth of much of Southwestern Utah since the late 1980s. The city is located on the western edge of the Markagunt Plateau, in a high desert valley with no ocean drainage. Interstate 15 connects the city with St. George (50 miles) and Las Vegas (180 miles) to the south, and to Interstate 70 (70 miles) and Salt Lake City (250 miles) to the north. State roads connect Cedar City with Panaca, Nevada near US 93, Kanab, Utah via US 89 and to US 50 and US 6. Similar to St. George, the city enjoys an excellent location on the west’s regional transportation network. Los Angeles is 439 miles south and San Diego is 500 miles south on Interstate 15, Phoenix is 465 miles south via Interstate 15 and US 93, and Denver is 580 miles east via Interstates 15 and 70. Cedar City is located at 37°40’57” North, 113°4’28” West. The city has a total area of 20.1 square miles (52.0 km²), none of which is covered with water.


The United States needs proof that a sustainable development is financially viable and can live and thrive within the current economic framework with no changes to the states current perspective on comfort; This is until the idea proves to the US that it can create a more integrated built environment. Developers will have the opportunity to view the project framework and see that there are alternative ways to develop that differ from the common comfort zone that can be referred to as ‘business as usual’. The Earth will benefit greatly from this research since it revolves around the concept of symbiosis and a ‘no waste’ design approach versus a parasitic one. Architects/Designers will learn one possible approach for creating positive change in our built environment.



The Canyon Ranch Master Plan has been created as part of the Cedar City General Plan and Zoning for land use regulation. The plan is in response to growth pressure for the city and is intended to provide a carefully planned neighborhood with high quality development. These residential neighbourhoods will provide support for the village commercial, creating a sustainable community for Cedar City. The Canyon Ranch Master Plan is located near the north interchange of I-15 in Cedar City at the mouth of Fiddlers Canyon. The development property consists of approximately 400 acres of land and an additional 600 acres of Bureau of Land Management property. The BLM land will be annexed into the City and used for primarily recreational purposes.


The Canyon Ranch Master Plan is an overlay zone for the current city zoning. The purpose of this plan is to further define the land-uses as it is applied to the General Plan. The current zoning under the planned unit development section permits most of the principles needed to create a sustainable community design with the exception of street sections and the need to interconnect the community with adjacent neighbourhoods. Other items my include allowing sustainable neighbourhoods to develop which include higher density residential land uses providing support to commercial uses. The mixed use overlay follows new urbanism planning principles to provide a walkable community. The purpose of this plan is not only to facilitate safe and orderly growth, it also provides a new development model which reflects the past and incorporates its best planning principles into a model that will succeed in today’s culture. The model encourages the development of public spaces supported by residential housing incorporating walkable community planning principles and village centers for public services. The Canyon Ranch development is located in Cedar City, which can be found in the Southwest corner of Utah in the United States with an elevation of 5,846 feet. The master plan covers 422.9 acres of land subdivided into 9 neighbourhoods with a planned density of 4 units per acre creating a total unit count of 1691. The current density of Cedar City is 1,021.8 per sq mi. (IBI Group Canyon Ranch Master-Plan Design Guidelines)


canyon.ranch There is no relationship between Canyon Ranch’s final design and it’s design guidelines, it negates all design principles mentioned on the previous ‘ad’ page. In actuality it cannot be defined as sustainable, it is satellite to Cedar City and does not show any attempt to link the two; and if developed, will evolve into a parasitic burden on the city’s current infrastructure and the Earth as a whole. Canyon Ranch is not walkable by any means, one can tell the design was informed by the automobile and cookie cutter design strategies, revolving around quick profit incentives. The proposed plan needs to be changed and reinforced with the design guidelines which were lost in translation the first time around.







The initial design considerations manifested themselves from the following three notions: 1. Understand how communities or tribes in the past have used similar contexts to create environments that achieve[d] some level of symbiosis with the planet. There are many creative ways to achieve symbiotic functions of life, they just need to become apparent or rediscovered and adapted to current and future contexts. 2. Create a non-utopian solution that fits within the Canyon Ranch Master plan, LEED design guidelines and current societal economic framework. It would be one thing to propose a design to fit within a perfect world, this is not the problem, we need feasible design solutions that fit within or stretch our current framework to create a lower/zero impact on the planet. 3. Use technology as a resource rather than a commodity. Often times, technology seems to be the all knowing, do everything solution. It tends to create many problems when not approached from an integrated design standpoint.


Within the Canyon Ranch development ‘eco.loop’, an American zero energy development will embrace its periphery. Without proper design and solutions, ‘business as usual’ will continue and no change or sustainable consideration will be made to the current Canyon Ranch master plan. There are a number of themes that are addressed in this project. These themes revolve around symbiosis and zero impact on the planet within a liveable community that betters the quality of life – designing for the Earth and community without forgetting to include different scales of design and their alloted impact. This takes a step beyond seeing technology as a primary solution but rather as an accompaniment to passive strategies that have been used and expressed throughout the ages. These different themes attempt to find feasible, qualitative solutions. The site was chosen for its scale and zoning. The area proved to be manageable for an initial, suburbandowntown, exemplar-design-parti zoned for mixed and commercial uses.








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Not only does the proposed project contradict it’s design guidelines, but it will create a satellite development further dislocating Cedar City, Utah. In the evolutionary history of humans, the period of modernist town planning and the technologies that support it are not even a blip on the chart. The genetic codes that direct our most basic impulses were written long, long ago by our Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors, whose survival depended upon their sociability and the subtlety of their understanding of the world around them, first as hunter/gatherers and later as farmers but always in defense against their enemies. In a few short years, we cannot simply erase the physical and congnitive tracks along which we have traveled with brilliant biological success for scores of millennia. Our species succeeds because we are alert, observant, and sociable creatures; a major part of what we demand from our habitat is regular exercise of these fundamental parts of our humanity. In many ways, our recent patterns of making buildings and towns tend to deny us this life sustaining exercise, and we now routinely experience the condition that philosopher Martin Heidegger referred to as “loss of nearness.” The central concept of Heidegger’s writings - “being in the world” - establishes a fundamental relationship between our consciousness and the context of our lives. It is from this relationship that the idea of nearness emerged. He considered its loss to be a deep spiritual and cultural malaise that infiltrates experience at almost every moment of our lives. (Global City Blues)



density.dislocation ‘A Green Vitruvius’ states that for a neighborhood development, an average net density per hectare (approximately 2.47 acres) should accommodate 40-50 units. The area of focus is approximately 8 acres and contains 17 residential, suburban style units. This means that the site needs to contain 113 (a total of 130 units) more units to accommodate the need to support a mass transit system. Alternatively the 8 acre area needs to house 324 residents. Once tested in plan, the guidelines proposed by ‘A Green Vitruvius’, are definately achievable within the constraints created by the surrounding streets.



The final design contains 70 units increasing the initial design by 412 percent, but falling 50 units short of the guidelines provided by ‘A Green Vitruvius’. Alternatively, the new plan under ideal conditions can comfortably house 284 residents, falling 40 short of the guidelines. But when one considers the commercial area which is capable of housing 30 businesses, the new proposed design proves to be a viable solution to support a mass transit system. 31

The scematic drawing on the right defines five boxed in areas. From left to right these areas are: 1. a large water collector/skatepark facility, 2. a commercial area with the first two stories containing commercial funtions and the third story containing residences, 3. three story apartments with garden roofs, 4. parking shed/PV array and mixed use, suburban-sustainable-hybrid homes, 5. shows the potential of the design’s ‘green core’ to grow as needed.







water.reuse.recycle There is no natural water source in Cedar City and new development severely taxes city water services. This project attempts to explore if symbiosis can be achieved under such circumstances. Currently, the proposed Canyon Ranch design consumes 7,935 gallons of potable water per day. In 2000, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan suggested that “fierce competition for freshwater may well become a source of conflict and war in the future�. (Un Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Millennium Report, New York, 3 April 2000)


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Eco.loop must combine water catchment strategies with greywater recycling whenever possible to achieve hydro-symbiosis. The design utilizes the site as a filtering device as water travels through its soil and vegetation until it ultimately reaches the wetlands where it is stored for future use. Not only is this a utilitarian solution for stormwater management, but various water features and sculptural catchment devices express this scare resource of the land as well.

the.solution water.collection.areas

water.reuse.recycle 41

Using efficient fixtures, separating water uses, and reusing water on site, eco.loop uses1,335 more gallons of potable water a day than Canyon Ranch’s proposed design. This is achieved despite the significant increase in the potable water usage due to the 412% increase in unit density, This is accomplished by collecting 1.5 million gallons of rainwater on site each year. This annual number will only increase as hydro-inertia develops in the wetlands and the earth becomes saturated. The image on the left overlooks the wetlands from the second story commercial path that bridges the streets. (Looking southwest from the sharp corner of the second level path)


rainwater is collected throughout the site


percolation water table

water is gravity filtered through the site

city potable water supply greywater from water tower is gravity fed

excess greywater re-enters the cycle or is absorbed by the earth

all excess greywater is returned to the site filtering system

water is pumped from the wetlands or watertable using converted solar energy


potable water from the city and greywater from eco.loop is used




The proposed satellite development proves to dislocate any infrastructure that is located nearby. If the development is going to be built, how can it be as non-taxing on the existing utility sources as possible?


“Those of us who are older adults (I’m now 52) have lived in the most exciting time in history. Even if we have suffered from the stresses of the fast pace... we have benefited from the enormous energies at our disposal. It has been a fabulous party. Shall we acknowledge that the party is over, clean up after ourselves and make way for those who will come after us?” (Richard Heinberg, The party’s over, 2003)



Use eco.loop as both a place to live and a means to power the community. Covered areas can provide shade, photovoltaic energy, solar-water heating and water catchment. This technological system will complement the passive design strategies such as thermal inertia principles, passive cooling, heating, natural daylighting, water reuse/recycling, and non-mechanical ventilation systems. 49

The image on the right shows where solar energy is gathered on the site. The largest red zone on the bottom right provides shade for cars, PV energy, solar hot water and water collection for any precipitation that does not evaporate.



energy On average 5,100 kwh of energy is generated on site per day. This not only serves eco.loop and its surrounding development but also creates an average excess energy of 1,210 kwh per day, valued at $9,680 dollars. This excess energy will be cycled back into the grid and provide renewable energy to its neighboring developments. Additionally, the PV’s will run extra efficient because of water running under the panels. The water is then cycled through pipes that run under the site’s walkways, residences and commercial areas to provide radiant heating. As the water cools through the site it will return to the wetlands and repeat this process. The image on the left shows garden roofs that are located on top of all residences. The shaded roof areas provide each triple stacked unit with solar hot water and additional localized PV energy.


water from wetlands

cooled water to return to wetlands

solar energy

hotwater for radiant heat shaded area for parking

the grid

meter pv energy

meter utility energy



Design a demonstration of the feasibility in Canyon Ranch looking at an embraced small scale neighborhood known as the heart. Use the concept of symbiosis to create design resilience. You cannot predict the future, but you can design in preparation for it. Develop ‘heart’, or core within Canyon Ranch planned community to set trends and serve as an exemplar for further development. Use development that is ‘walker’ friendly and self sustaining. Use three-for-one and two-for-one integrated sustainable design methodology. Understand symbiotic relationships on functional and contextual levels.





deck.1 room.1

Residence areas are mostly built upon passive strategies. Emulating cave-like qualities attributed to ancient adobe huts, providing a great escape from the desert sun. The residences use large apertures on both the north and south sides to create seasonable spaces and options for the occupants. With 2,000 square feet of floor area and 500 square feet of garden space. The units provide a nice median between suburban style and an ultimate urban context.

room.2 2.bathrooms stairs.continue.




sunroom deck.2




Different park areas provide shaded and non-shaded paths giving seasonable options for the users. Some of these shaded paths are provided by nature and others are artificial sculptural pieces. Much of the nature provided by eco.loop uses draught tolerant vegetation, which proves to be a viable solution for the desert.

Cedar City, Utah is located near national and state parks, monuments, wilderness and national forests making it a great hub for outdoor recreation. Eco.loop’s rugged outdoor activity park actively embraces these qualities while creating a sense of place that is indicative of its context. Some of the outdoor activities include mountain biking, skiing, and rock climbing.






deck living.area.

stair.and. entrance

bathroom.1 room.1 room.2 room.3 bathroom.2




The commercial area facilitates an outdoor shopping environment, providing a plethora of outdoor spaces including hardscapes, softscapes, shaded and non-shaded spaces. The second story path serves as a bridge to provide safe crossing over the city streets. In the evening, spaces that surround the park become illuminated by vibrant LED’s celebrating the cool evening and warmed earth after a hot summer day. On top of two stories of commercial space sits four apartment units; the image on the left shows how these units correspond with each other.


It’s time for change. No matter what scale or intensity, such a mentality must be adopted. As designers we have the capability to influence drastic change in our built environment which can directly and indirectly be implemented to loosen our current vice on the planet. We can mold change on many levels. Even though change of an intense scale is necessary for a softer landing, even the smallest effort will change the severity of the impact and hopefully turn into an exponential phenomenon.




Bruce Haglund, Chris Luebkeman, Rodger Mitchell, Romรกn Montoto, Amy Lewis, Francesca Birks, Rob Purdie, Marcus Morrell, Shogo Ota, Simon Roberts, Alvise Simondetti, Duncan Wilson, Madhav Munshi, Jennifer Greitschus, Katy Ghahremani, Jake Dunn, Jesse Walker and many more..




Drivers of Change 2007 Drivers of Change 2006 (searched: ‘world population’, ‘Cedar City, Utah’,) IBI Group Canyon Ranch Master-Plan Design Guidelines, January 2006 Bioregional Solutions: For Living on One Planet….. Schumacher briefings 8 A Green Vitruvius, Principles and Practice of Sustainable Architectural Design United States Census Bureau Global City Blues Sun, Wind and Light The Revenge of Gaia Off the Grid Homes



Sustainable development proposal for Cedar City, Utah. University of Idaho graduate project.


Sustainable development proposal for Cedar City, Utah. University of Idaho graduate project.