Ecopatterns Wiki
What's YOUR solution?

Some Example Ecopatterns

For energy: For water conservation: For waste management:

If you are interested in sponsoring or participating in this project, to find out how.

We can't do it alone. Help redesign the world.

Many plans and ideas for solving our environmental problems have been proposed. For energy, T. Boone Pickens has his plan; Google has its Clean Energy 2030 plan; the Natural Resources Defense Council has its plan. Environmental websites for plans like these and others include thousands of ideas. What if the best ideas from sources like these were connected in a single integrated "whole systems" solution?

Enter the Ecopatterns Wiki project. It combines a network of design solutions called a "Pattern Language" and a type of website called a "Wiki", providing a platform for participatory green design.

Project Origins

Design MatriX principal Gary Swift was an early adopter of Pattern Languages, first developed by Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure. As early as 1970 he viewed Pattern Languages as a way to solve many kinds of complex systems design problems, and he has had considerable experience with Pattern Languages ever since.

In 1973 Gary began teaching a course called Ecopatterns with ecologist Ken Asplund at the School of Design, California Institute of the Arts, where students generated patterns to solve ecosystems design problems. With the rise of the web Gary published some of these Ecopatterns on his Design MatriX website beginning in 1996.

Meanwhile other people were inventing the technology for wikis, collaborative websites whose pages are generated by users, such as the well-known collaborative encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and Google's Knol.

When the price of crude oil nearly doubled in 2008, ushering in yet another energy crisis, Gary decided to initiate an idea he had been entertaining for a long time. Why not marry Ecopatterns to wiki technology so that hundreds of people can collaborate to create an explosion of design patterns which solve energy and other environmental problems?

Questions and Answers

The Ecopatterns Wiki project is new and the details of how the system will eventually work are still being refined. However, the following Q&A reflects our current thinking.

What are Ecopatterns?

What we call "Ecopatterns" are design patterns that make up a Pattern Language for ecological and environmental design problems. A design pattern is basically a document that prescribes a generic solution to a recurring generic problem, a rule of thumb that can be applied in a number of specific ways. Each pattern has several sections, the primary ones being a Problem Summary, an Analysis, and a Solution Summary, as explained in our web page, Anatomy of a Pattern Language. The patterns link to one another (through larger more general Predecessor Patterns and smaller more specific Successor Patterns) to form a network of solutions that work together. As people can refer to the patterns by their titles, the network of solutions comprise a Pattern Language.

How does the Ecopatterns Wiki differ from other wikis?

A "wiki" is a website that enables users, individually or in groups, to create and update web pages. Using the same technology, the Ecopatterns Wiki enables people to collaborate in the creation of Ecopatterns. Wikis like Wikipedia or Google's Knol are great resources for information. But the typical wiki article is a descriptive and explanatory exposition of a subject, and it can contain so much information that the essential factors for design and engineering decisions can be buried in a myriad of details. In contrast an Ecopatterns Wiki article, a design pattern, is prescriptive rather than descriptive. A pattern's Analysis section doesn't seek to be the most exhaustive source of information about a subject, but instead to boil down the details of the design problem - the forces behind it - to their essentials. After analysing the problem a design pattern is action oriented. It says, "Therefore, do this."

Can anyone edit an Ecopattern?

No. When wiki articles are open to editing by anyone they are also open to vandalism, sabotage and "wiki wars", requiring precious resources to police the project. Therefore, in order to start or improve an Ecopattern, authors must first join the project as a member of the Ecopatterns Wiki team.

Can people comment on Ecopatterns?

Yes, there will be discussion forums where people can comment on the project as a whole and individual Ecopatterns, but they must also first join the project. In this way, Ecopattern authors can benefit from critiques and suggestions from people who aren't necessarily writing Ecopatterns themselves. Just as anybody on the internet can read the Ecopatterns, they can also read commentaries in the public forums.

How is the project funded?

Our plan is to fund the Ecopatterns Wiki project with donations, grants and sponsored links to pay for infrastructure and a staff to manage the project. Individual Ecopatterns will be for the most part authored by individual contributing volunteers. Donors and grant supporters will be listed with kudos on a sponsorship page (unless they choose to remain anonymous).

The rules.

As the purpose of the project is to produce as many smart design patterns for ecological and environmental problems as possible, we want to make creating Ecopatterns simple and easy. However, in order to maintain consistency and quality in the format and content of the Ecopatterns themselves, and in the discussion forums, there are a few simple rules.

There are a set of sections that must be given content in each pattern. These sections and what they should contain are explained under the Pattern Components outline here: Anatomy of a Pattern Language. completing these sections, and project leaders will assist authors in creating top-notch patterns.

We need your help! If you would like to volunteer as an Ecopatterns author or to help sponsor the project, to find out how.