Sim Van der Ryn

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Sim Van der Ryn is acknowledged as a leader in "sustainable architecture." He is also a researcher and educator. Van der Ryn's driving professional interest has been applying principles of physical and social ecology to architecture and environmental design.

Van der Ryn distinguished himself among those designers and planners who have pioneered sustainable design at the community scale and the building-specific scale. He has designed everything from single-family and multi-family housing, to community facilities, retreat centers and resorts, to learning facilities, as well as office and commercial buildings.[1]

Sim Van der Ryn's family left the Netherlands during World War II, settling in Kew Gardens, Queens, then eventually Great Neck, New York. Sim grew up with a sense of closeness with nature and a fascination with its details. He got his training in architecture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and obtained state architecture licenses and national architectural registration. He has long lived in California.

In the exploratory and energetic latter part of the 20th century, Van der Ryn and other architects and designers with similar interests were able to pioneer new technologies, systems, materials, and design solutions to create environments intended to be sensitive to place and climate, as well as responsive to human needs.

Van der Ryn was appointed California State Architect in the administration of Governor Jerry Brown, during which time he developed the United States' first government-initiated energy efficient office building program and led adoption of energy standards and disability access standards for all construction in California.

In the 1970s Van der Ryn founded the Farallones Institute which helped to create national awareness of "ecologically integrated living design." The Farallones Institute designed, built and managed an urban and a rural research/teaching center for studying appropriate technologies, energy-efficiency, organic agriculture, land restoration, community design and ecologically sustainable energy and waste systems, design and construction. The urban center was called the Integral Urban House. Van der Ryn later founded the Ecological Design Institute (EDI), Van der Ryn Architects' non-profit partner, which carries on this work.

"The worst thing you can do is keep making no changes," Van der Ryn once said while addressing an assembly of architects. "That's where the risk lies." Given America's dependence on foreign oil, he has proposed (as an instance), that energy security is one of the country's greatest challenges and the status quo won't do. U.S. companies, he believes, would pay more attention to "green" buildings if their operational costs for energy bills were calculated on the same balance sheet as construction costs.

Van der Ryn has reported he has noticed, while driving around America, that many builders still seem to pay no attention to one of the cheapest ways to save on energy bills: positioning the house on its site to maximize passive solar heat.

Sim Van der Ryn has been presented with numerous honors and awards, including: the Goff Chair of Innovative Architecture, University of Oklahoma (2001); Fellowship of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts (1997); Rockefeller Scholar in Residence, Bellagio, Italy (1997); the President's Award for Planning, American Society of Landscape Architects (Colorado Chapter); Arbolera de Vida Master Plan, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1997); the Nathaniel Owings Award, California Council American Institute of Architects (1996); a Commendation for Excellence in Technology, California Council American Institute of Architects (1981); and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1971).

Van der Ryn is in the architecture faculty at the University of California, Berkeley.

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