Home Institution

College of William and Mary

Publication Date

Fall 2004

Program Name

China: Yunnan Province - Language and Cultures


In Tibetan Buddhism, the srivatsa, or glorious endless knot, reminds one of the truth of reality. Six right-angled, intertwined strands flow endlessly together, each one connected to the other, each one giving form to the next. So flows reality. Looking past the illusion of isolation, the endless knot illustrates the interdependence and mutual cooperation that runs the world.

No event, no living being has the ability to stand by itself, completely unaffected and unaffecting. All phenomena are intertwined. Every human action, however big or small, impacts the world in some way. The endless knot unveils the truth of reality so often hidden from daily consciousness – every act leaves some type of imprint.

The concept of environmentally sustainable design embodies the lesson of the endless knot. Sustainable design begins with the notion that human civilization is inextricably interwoven with the natural world, and that therefore the survival of human civilization depends on the survival of the natural world. Realizing also that human activities, such as development, often have a significant negative impact on the natural world, environmentally sustainable design seeks to construct buildings that impact the environment as little as possible. This type of development ensures a healthy environment and guarantees the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Environmentally sustainable homes typify conservation principles in every aspect of their design. All parts of the home – from its building materials to its energy and water use – strive to leave the smallest possible footprint on the local and global environment. The ideal home incorporates renewable, indigenous building resources, a passive energy system, water conservation techniques, and avoids the use of waste-producing materials. It strives for minimal disruption to the local landscape.

Environmentally sustainable design is an increasingly important global issue, especially in countries like China, where industrialization and the growing population are putting record strains on the environment. The growth of green design corresponds to advancements in green technology. New building techniques, alternative energy sources, and energy-efficient appliances assist green designers in their quest to build light-impact homes.

Some cultures have known how to build environmentally harmonious homes for centuries, long before the green technology movement began. Native Americans, for instance, have long constructed homes that incorporate themselves perfectly within the local landscape. Studying the indigenous building methods of different cultures can contribute valuable knowledge to the modern green design movement. This paper seeks to examine the environmental sustainability of homes in Hamu Go, a Tibetan village in China, in hopes of creating an information exchange between modern green building methods and eco-friendly building designs already developed by the Tibetans.

Reviewing the environmental sustainability of a home requires knowledge of the home’s surrounding environmental conditions and a consideration of the home’s building materials, energy and water use, waste production, and site selection.


Environmental Health and Protection | Natural Resources and Conservation


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