Hedonistic Sustainability: How Design Enhances Quality of Life

Sustainable design is not a fad, and it’s not really even a trend. In fact by its very definition its intention is to last longer and continually deliver benefits to its surrounding environment. With the push towards sustainable design practices in cities, buildings, and homes there are many different green design methods which are being implemented on small and large scales.

At PowerHouse Growers, we’ve discussed some of these specific types of sustainable design approaches, and the places in which they are being implemented. From New Urbanism to Form-Based Codes, to certifiable design procedures such as LEED and WELL sustainable design options are widely available to those who are dedicated to long-term solutions.

Yet may are still not sold on the overall concept of sustainable design. It’s likely because many individuals feel as though “sustainability” means that some form of sacrifice will ensue. It’s felt that you’ll be giving something up in return for being more conscious of our environment. It’s up to leaders and advocates of sustainable design to not only innovate “green” solutions that don’t make one feel as though they’re compromising, but to communicate the big picture and long-term benefits as well.


“8 House” in Copenhagen is a hedonistic sustainability design that combines living and working spaces together for better quality of life. Image via BIG.

Hedonistic Sustainability Doesn’t Compromise

Though we’ve touched on how sustainable design can enhance health and wellbeing, we’ve really only approached it from the perspective of how individuals can be positively impacted by their built environment. A new perspective of sustainable design was brought to light a few years back by world-renowned architect and sustainability advocate, Bjarke Ingels.

As the founding partner of the Bjarke Ingels Group, one of the most widely recognized architecture firms in the world, Bjarke brought to light his vision of the next evolution in sustainable design. He calls it hedonistic sustainability. At first, this term may seem a bit counterintuitive in the discussion of sustainability. Frankly, hedonism and sustainability don’t typically belong in the same sentence. That’s the exact reaction that this new-age architect is trying to invoke, however. Hedonistic sustainability is intended to highlight how just because something was designed to protect our environment doesn’t mean we have to give up the hedonism we’ve come to find in our comfortable lifestyles.

A prime example of hedonistic sustainability is Tesla Motors. Elon Musk’s products are intended to reverse our dependence of fossil fuels while looking hot in a sleek and sexy “it” car. If we’re going to get more people on board with sustainability we must position products and designs hedonistically.

Our society is simply not willing to give up the things that we’ve grown accustomed to. We’ve created for ourselves a tremendous quality of life that we don’t want to sacrifice. Hedonistic sustainability challenges to notion that we’d be giving something up if we intend to help our environment flourish. In fact, Bjarke and others like him believe that sustainability not only refrains from compromise, but it actually enhances and improves our quality of life, giving to us more opportunities for happiness and health and yes – hedonism – than we would experience otherwise.


The Big U design helps protect the city against floods while providing an area for social enjoyment. Image via BIG.

Hedonistic Sustainability Establishes Ecosystems

With the idea of enhancing quality of life in mind, it gives way to a new role for the architect. This expanded role allows for the architect to combine systems of both ecology and economy in their designs. In hedonistic sustainability, buildings and even city masterplans are no longer detrimental to our ecosystems. It’s a holistic approach to design whereby a high-quality and satisfying lifestyle is achieved within a complete ecosystem of urbanism.

These ecosystems address lifestyle needs such a social ties, access to amenities, and mobility. As Bjarke calls it “architecture alchemy” adds value to the city by mixing working and living areas together to allow for more social interaction and ease of living. In hedonistic sustainability, we can take ecosystem establishment one step further and design closed-loop methods for heat, energy, water, waste, and food. All of these solutions can be incorporated in masterplans which have merged all facets of living together while preserving our surrounding environment.

These urban designs have been popularized in high-density cities in Europe where lifestyle is more of a cultural asset than it is perhaps here in North America. By modelling some of the success that has been achieved in cities that implement the notion of hedonistic sustainability, we can start to shift the misconception of sacrificing our quality of life in the name of sustainability. Smart and compassionate design, if done properly, won’t even feel any different than a mere expectation for improving our quality of life.

Feature Image: A rendering of an energy plant combined with a ski slope shows how something sustainable can provide an opportunity for enhancing quality of life. Image via BIG.

About The Author

PowerHouse Growers
PowerHouse Growers teaches you how to sustainably integrate urban agriculture into your cities, businesses, and homes. We provide clear solutions and benefits for better health, increased productivity, and lower environmental impact. By connecting you with experts, we bring awareness to solutions that may not be top of mind.