Pattern Language Framework
Stan J. Cross
Environmental Leadership Center Interim Director
WWC CPO 6323
PO Box 9000
Asheville, NC 28815-9000
In 1990, WWC adopted “pattern language” as the conceptual tool to develop underlying principles for its land use decisions. Pattern language was developed by architect Christopher Alexander in the early 1970’s to assist the University of Oregon with its planning process. A pattern is any general planning principle that states a clear problem that may occur repeatedly in the environment, states the range of contexts in which the problem may occur, and gives the guidelines that will solve the problem. Patterns are dependent upon community input and continuous review. They maintain the internal physical integrity and character of a community while allowing for growth and change. The pattern language process is compatible with Warren Wilson’s tradition of shared governance, its legacy of land stewardship, and its use of representative committees to oversee the operations of the College.
In the early 1990’s, Warren Wilson’s Long Range Land Use Committee was tasked with developing “Environmental Pattern Language” for land use, energy, transportation, solid and hazardous waste, water quality, air quality, purchasing, personnel, and construction in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. Since that time, several patterns have been developed, some more in keeping with the formal concepts of pattern language than others. The following overview summarizes the Environmental Pattern Languages and operational plans developed to date by relevant stakeholders and approved through the College’s shared governance process.
Approved Patterns and Plans
Forest Management Plan (1980/1990)
Solid Waste Pattern Language (1986/1994)
- Protection of the forest resources, and enhancement of the resources when feasible.
- Use of the of forest resources for the purpose of education, in a broad context,
- Maintenance of the aesthetic environment, including hiking trails and forested areas set aside to be used for relaxation and reflection.
- Optimization of forest products for use by the community, or for sale.
- Silviculture most appropriate, for this forest will emphasize natural regeneration through partial cutting and the creation and maintenance of mixed stands comprising primarily local, native species.
- Severe canopy disturbances (clear-cutting or overstory removal) limited to small areas.
- Harvesting will rely most heavily on small equipment, appropriate to the scale of our forest and to the style of silviculture practiced here.
Hazardous Materials Pattern Language (1986/1997)
- Warren Wilson will manage its solid waste in a safe, responsible and legal manner with a goal of 40% reduction of the volume of the college’s waste stream by 1991.
- The College will develop a long range, solid waste management plan to accomplish the stated objectives.
- A solid waste committee will monitor the implementation of the management plan and assist in the review and update of the plan every two years. This committee will initially be appointed as an ad hoc committee by the Business Manager and then ultimately become a subcommittee of the Business Affairs Advisory Committee.
- Recycling is mandatory at Warren Wilson College.
Long Range Facilities Plan (1992)
To insure the education, disposal, and management of hazardous waste on campus to comply with all federal, state, and county regulations.
- The Hazmat Committee will oversee implementation of policy.
Long Range Land Use Plan (1996)
Principles are to be applied to the improvement of roads, parking, buildings, signage and lighting.
- The Warren Wilson campus will reflect its rural setting and village concept.
- The presumption is in favor of aesthetics (including trees and other natural features) and people in locating utilities, roads, buildings, etc.
- All decisions about what to build and how to build grow out of a participatory process within the shared governance system.
- All design and construction is guided by the collection of planning principles adopted by the community.
- Design choices will prefer minimal environmental impact and maximal energy efficiency
- People, aesthetics and environmentally sound choices may frequently be in tension. Therefore, these will be weighted on a case-by-case basis.
- The well being of the whole will be protected by an annual diagnosis, which analyzes, in detail, which spaces are alive (productively and/or pleasingly in use) and which ones are dead.
Issues for which this pattern language applies:
- Academic/programmatic use of land.
- Environmental impact: analysis of the environmental impact of land use must be a part of the decision-making process about use of the land.
- Neighboring uses: minimize negative effects to the College and the neighboring lands, or enhance positive effects on development and use of Warren Wilson or neighboring land.
- Economic implications of use: land use must be judged in economic terms; these will not, and should not, always be a controlling factor, but must always be used to inform land use decisions; the overall economic status of the College may precipitate the need to undertake such decisions.
- Partnership uses.
- Acquisition/disposition of property.
- Changing use patterns (e.g. changes in Farm operation).
- Building Site selection.
- Plans should be developed in three-year cycles; longer-range planning by staff and administration can be undertaken if authorized by the Trustees.
- Revisit, annually, the status of the plan, as well as any further considerations referred by the administration or Board of Trustees.
- The Business Affairs committee is responsible for overseeing the coming year’s plan.
- Each fall, the Long Range Land Use Committee will present the following year’s plan at a joint session of the Business Affairs and Long-Range Land Use Committee and hand off the plan for implementation to Business Affairs.
Principles: These will shape the ongoing land use plan. Others may be needed and added, but none of these may be violated.
- Support of Community Life: No decision should be taken regarding use of the land which would negatively affect the physical or philosophical sense of place that exists here.
- Common Sense. All decisions about land use should also be tested by discussion and intuitive thought.
- Preponderantly Positive Impact. Changes in land use should be structured so as to yield a strongly net positive effect on the land and the community.
- Community Participation. Proposed major changes in land use should be presented to and discussed by the Warren Wilson community for recommendation to the President and Board of Trustees.
- Pastoral Preservation. Long-term development within the campus lands should not be allowed to erode the pastoral nature of the place. In particular, sprawl should be avoided in any growth of the College.
- Building on hindsight. We should learn from past successes and mistakes.
- Searching for the reciprocal. Change is usually driven by individual programs. Potential impact on the larger community must always be considered in evaluating land use issues.
- Renewal: A mechanism for maintenance must be a part of any ongoing plan.
- Endowment: The riches of the land that the College enjoys must always be seen as an endowment. As such they must be managed for the good of the community.
- Productivity. everything at WWC must work for the common good. None of the land or its fruits should be neglected.
Farm Long Range Land Use Plan (1998)
- Include appropriate density of campus buildings.
- Recognize that valleys should be maintained for agricultural purposes.
- Outward views from buildings should be filtered by vegetation.
- Land use practices should enhance access to the river and facilitate its use and enjoyment sense of place should be maintained.
Landscape Pattern Language (1999)
- Developed to incorporate the Farm Task Force Goals (1995) and create a plan that is “economically viable and environmentally sound.
- Overarching goals include these:
- Serve the greater needs of the college by education, practical experience, and a connection to the larger environment
- Be highly productive but do as little harm to soil and water quality as possible
- Be economically viable.
- Some of the commitments include these: eliminate use of pesticides; eliminate all livestock access to the river and its tributaries; remove non-native and invasive species of weeks and vines; develop wildlife habitat areas along streams and drainage ditches; implement pasture rotation to minimize impact on soil and water quality.
Native Biodiversity, Wildlife, and Fisheries Pattern Language (2000)
- All landscape design should reflect the Environmental Pattern Language.
- Design and implement landscapes that are low maintenance, environmentally sound, and aesthetically pleasing, using native grasses, trees, shrubs, and wildflowers where appropriate to establish and maintain natural areas throughout core campus.
- Landscape design should enhance the educational function of the College.
- The landscape of core campus should contain a network of comprehensive pathways to make the campus a pedestrian and environmentally friendly place.
Purchasing Pattern Language (2001)
- Because the rich biodiversity of WWC is integral to the environmental legacy of the college there is an imperative to conserve native biodiversity, fisheries, and wildlife on Warren Wilson property.
- Maintain a college-wide biodiversity and wildlife management plan integrated with other management plans (farm, garden, forest, landscaping, archeological, recreation, development).
- The college should adopt a no net loss of wetlands policy on its property.
- Riparian zones should be maintained or enhanced for conservation of biodiversity whenever possible at widths appropriate to conditions.
- Loss of acreage of Warren Wilson agricultural land should be minimized.
- Because agricultural lands are integral to conservation efforts, agricultural management activities should work, when appropriate, in consultation with faculty members who have conservation biology expertise.
Warren Wilson has a moral obligation to set a clear example for current and future generations.
- Purchasing policies should demonstrate the social and environmental commitments in the College’s Mission Statement and in its Environmental Commitment Statement.
- Purchasers must take into account the environmental and economic impact of their buying choices.
- Purchasers should understand the advantages of environmentally friendly and socially sound purchasing practices and become an attitude used by all those making decisions.
- Warren Wilson is interested in buying materials that promote the health and sustainability of our biosphere (specific suggestions of principles to guide these purchases).
- Preference should be given to products that use the least or conserve the most energy, water, gas, and other nonrenewable or environmentally costly resources.
- Gifts and donations should be subject to the same standards as purchased products.
- Warren Wilson will seek to avoid purchasing from companies with specific socially unethical business practices.
- The College will strive to develop an environmentally friendly vendor list for use in purchasing decisions.