Observe and Interact. Interview with Design Ecology Civil Engineer Ben Jordan. By Willi Paul, Publisher, PlanetShifter.com Magazine.
Take my hand and run with me out of the past called yesterday
and walk with me into the future on to tomorrow
Yesterday my sweetful life rolled again back no matter what
There is nothing left but memories that bring sorrows
Yesterday is gone but tomorrow is forever
No more cryin’ and memories find their way back
Tomorrow’s waiting let’s journey there together
Yesterday is gone but tomorrow is forever
I care no for yesterday, I love you as you are today
We must forget the passing time
My love for you is the real kind of love that won’t hurt you forever
Yesterday is over. tomorrow is forever
Tomorrow Is Forever, Grateful Dead
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Interview Ben by Willi –
Is it supportive to describe BioChar as a transitional green technology? Are there other “byproduct applications” like this in your lab?
BioChar seems to be a great way to return residual carbons into the soil for stabilization. There is some work to explore if the residual tars have excess metals or other contaminates along with estimations as to the volume that would be produced through various technologies.
What is the status of SFGreasecycle? Do you have a vision for expansion / partners to share?
SF Greasecycle is a program of the SFPUC which was setup for diverting low quality Fats Oils and Greases from the trash, compost bins and sewer systems. The SFPUC is set up for partnering closely with other government entities and private industry for feedstock expansion, processing technologies and utilization of bioenergy.
Are there hurdles when applying permaculture’s ethic s and principles for for-profit clients?
The perception of the client may take management if there is not a broad understanding that permaculture departs from the standard landscape features such as turf.
Are you an ecologist / engineer? How has your idea of stewardship changed over the years?
I am a Professional Civil Engineer licensed in the State of California. Over the years the detail of the daily activities has been enhanced by past experiences. This perspective has just informed a sense of stewardship which leads to a specialization in the areas of focus.
Do you implement any localization strategies for Design Ecology clients? Any examples?
The designs generally supports localization in that the spaces that we create are more inviting and soothing to be in. In addition, there are elements such as the materials used along with the construction contractor selections that can support local efforts.
Is permaculture a “slow revolution” in the USA? Is it a fringe thing?
Permaculture is a way of life that is sustainable and this sense of place is slowly sweeping across the nation. Permaculture is expanding in a parallel with the growth of awareness. To me it is not clear if Permaculture will start to lead or continue to support these changes by offering a frame work of understanding that fits some peoples learning/practicing styles.
Can permaculture gain by extending its reach into the political system? What strategies would be worth trying?
Certainly working with social structures is a way to influence their evolution. One strategy is to not bill the efforts as permaculture but as sensible ecological thinking which lets people approach the efforts from their own experiences rather than having to be informed about the permaculture perspective.
What is sacred to you?
Growth – In all things; such as plants, places and in people’s hearts and minds
What songs, poems, symbols and/or Heros come to mind when you think about permaculture mythology?
All of the people throughout the ages past that have collected the skills and ruminations on living in harmony with our surroundings. This collection of activities is the experience that we draw on to set the day’s activities.
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Ben’s Bio & Project Highlights –
Mr. Jordan is the Civil Engineer of record at Design Ecology. His project focus is appropriate energy, utility infrastructure, and integration into site ecology and building systems. His experience includes large firm project management and utility design, including consultation with municipal scale water and energy management. Ben’s work is rooted in the development of engineering eco-literacy through his work at private consulting firms, cooperative business development, non-profit and academics. He regularly guest lectures and participates in workshops in the areas of water filtration and reuse, biofuels, and the water/energy nexus. Ben has extensive experience in the design and construction of municipal, commercial and residential development and has certifications in green design, permaculture, composting education and tank inspection. His wide range of successfully completed projects demonstrate integrated systems thinking with engineering rigor and include sustainable grading and drainage practices to minimize development impact. LID applications include natural swimming pools, rain catchment, green roof/wall applications, graywater, composting toilet and blackwater system designs, integrating watershed restoration techniques and stormwater best management practices. Ben founded the innovative municipal utility bioenergy program SFGreasecycle with San Francisco PUC; he manages the non-profit charged with the manufacture and distribution of biodiesel derived from the removal of fat, oil and grease (FOG) from the SF stormwater system. He holds a California Professional Civil Engineering License and a B.S. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Michigan.
Design Ecology research & development projects are focused on the interaction between soil, plants, and water. Our recent focus has been in the areas of green roofs, living walls, and water recycling. Specifically we are working with a synthetic, biodegradable grow media developed in Holland and formulated into a living wall system by Fytowall. We are successfully growing native plants in a research facility in Sonoma County, California and are researching compatible edible crops for testing. Irrigation is a hydroponic nutrient injection system, and we are optimizing for organic compost tea, micronutrients, and minerals. In particular we are interested in increasing the health benefits of hydroponically grown vegetables, which tend to lack some of the minerals and micronutrients found in soil-based crops.
Another research project involves the testing of BioChar as a soil amendment in green roof and urban bioswale applications. BioChar is a byproduct of biofuel gasification process, and is often used as an agricultural soil amendment. Existing research indicates enhanced nutrient retention, increased plant biomass, and potential water retention and filtration capacity. BioChar is also extremely lightweight, allowing for increased media depth within structural limitations for green roof applications. We have initiated test plots with a variety of custom designed soil mixes at a facility near Davis, California.
We are also developing graywater and blackwater reuse applications. We are working with a manufacturing partner on a modular, dynamic graywater product that can be applied according to water quality demand, for indoor reuse, outdoor reuse, or a combination of the two. This allows for simple reuse of sink, laundry, and bath water in a range of configurations including irrigation and toilet flushing. Blackwater reuse applications vary from a large site multi-family constructed wetland in Louisiana to subsurface drip irrigation applications in Malibu and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ben Jordan, P.E.