My book, Sustainability through Soccer, is now available!

Sustainability through Soccer: Systems-Thinking in Action

My book, Sustainability through Soccer: An Unexpected Approach to Saving the World is now available. In addition to being the best thing I’ve ever written, the book is also my best excuse for having fewer posts on this site over the past couple of years. If that is something you have noticed, I’m sure you will enjoy this book!

Are design professionals susceptible to framing effects too?


Our recently-published article “Using Framing Effects to Inform More Sustainable Infrastructure Design Decisions” shows that design professionals are susceptible to some of the same cognitive biases as students and other humans. In particular, endowing points in a rating system (rather than requiring they be earned) led designers to set higher goals for sustainability. In other words, how we structure sustainability rating systems will shape sustainability outcomes! This interdisciplinary research Read More →

Peter Fairley on defaults and standards creating dysfunction by design


Peter Fairley recently included our work to support his insightful article on design defaults for Ensia. FROM AIR CONDITIONING TO URBAN PLANNING, DEFAULTS AND STANDARDS CREATE DYSFUNCTION BY DESIGN March 7, 2016 — Personal heaters are a summer survival tool for many office workers chilled to the bone by hyperactive ventilation systems — an act of self-defense against an epidemic of overcooling that is wasting energy and confounding comfort Read More →

Academic Article Alert: Exposure to ”Role Model” Projects Can Lead to More Sustainable Infrastructure

role models sustainable infrastructure

Congratulations to Nora Harris, a Clemson undergrad and soon to be Virginia Tech Ph.D. student for her first publication: “How Exposure to ‘Role Model’ Projects Can Lead to Decisions for More Sustainable Infrastructure” in the journal Sustainability.  You can read the article for free by clicking on the link above, but the punchline is that just being exposed to a positive role model project seems to Read More →

Academic Article Alert: Well-endowed rating systems


Unfortunately for me, Tripp Shealy graduated with his Ph.D. yesterday1. To relax this summer, he’s taking an intensive course on programming for big-data analytics. Then he’s off to Virginia Tech for a civil engineering faculty position, where I have no doubt he will continue his influential teaching and research (and kayaking – that’s Tripp in the picture). Recently, one of the first papers from Tripp’s Read More →

Academic article alert: Design thinking traits

dt blog

Design thinking has reached a broader audience in recent years as practitioner/educators like Tim Brown and companies like IDEO show the value of design thinking in all types of fields. While earning her Ph.D. at Clemson, Jackie Blizzard studied design thinking, and her results were just released in the Design Studies article: “Using survey questions to identify and learn more about those who exhibit design thinking traits.” 1 With the help of Read More →

Academic article alert: Lessons from a coral reef: Biomimicry for structural engineering

Collection of coral on the Great Barrier Reef (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Toby Hudson)

Diana Chen recently published the article “Lessons from a Coral Reef: Biomimicry for Structural Engineers” in the Journal of Structural Engineering. Diana is a Ph.D. student I am fortunate to be working with along with her advisor, Dr. Brandon Ross. In my unbiased opinion as a co-author, the article is a much-needed overview of how biomimicry can be applied to structural engineering. In particular, the way Diana Read More →

Offloading my carbon footprint

footprint baby

In 2005, when I first took the ecological footprint quiz, I saw that I was one of the worst culprits of using more than my share. The quiz showed me that it would take over 8 earths to support humanity if everybody lived the same lifestyle as me.  Who knew that driving 30,000 miles per year and eating meat at every meal wasn’t good for anyone involved? By 2009, Read More →

An update on my office

My lakefront office

Last October, I promised to rethink how my office was being used. The old set-up worked well when I was there, but I realized that was only about 2% of the time; nearly all of my teaching, research, writing, and meetings happen elsewhere. Inspired by Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft’s wonderful book Make Space: How to set the stage for creative collaboration, our research group rethought how we could Read More →

A guest post from Megan Milam about Kiwi Elegance

An offending snowmaking machine - small margins for error lead to elegance values (photo courtesy of Alan Lam)

Megan Milam took my class as a first-year student and won the low-carbon meal competition – by riding her bike to get sushi if I remember correctly.  Megan has continued to work with me throughout her time at Clemson, which has included some pretty amazing work co-ops. Her most recent adventure took her to New Zealand, where she found elegance that I’ll let her describe. Read More →