Incorporating Lessons from Nature into Manmade Infrastructure




Topics: Sustainable lifestyles and education
Keywords: infrastructure, urban development, net zero water, sustainable design, resource consumption

Neil Myers1, Andres Prera2

1Williams Creek Consulting, United States of America; 2Medio Ambiente Arquitectura/Envrio, Guatemala;


Throughout human history, access to water has been a significant factor in the development of cultures, determining a city’s geographical location and whether it thrived or fell.

Local ecosystems of Central America are inherently complex, particularly in the rainforests. Geography and topography of the region create very efficient natural systems within these communities. The constant growth of cities and migration of people from rural to urban areas have heavily impacted existing local infrastructure. Cities must be prepared for the increase in density and demand for basic needs, such as housing and natural resources including water, energy, and transportation.

If we examine the city as an ecosystem, particularly looking at Guatemala City, we can recognize disconnection between infrastructure systems, and this presents near and long term issues to human, animal and plant cultures.

Sustainable design (people, planet, progress) integrated in the growth of cities allows the design community to manage and deliver a product which better anticipates the needs of all systems without putting native and indigenous habitants at risk. A deep understanding of the geology and topography of an area is integral to urban infrastructure design decisions in both private and public spaces.

Design principles of urban ecosystems will be the focus for future solutions.

Adherence to these design principles will help alleviate tragedies where nature and urban development collide. Such is the case in the October 2015 landslide in the village of El Cambray Dos within Guatemala. At least 280 people died when an inhabited mountainside gave way after days of heavy rain during the rainy season. Low impact design principles would not recommend development of such areas with topography and geology concerns. Additional principles of net zero water should be incorporated through sustainable policies to preserve this resource and move cities toward climate resiliency.


Neil Myers is a founding Principal of Williams Creek and has over 17 years’ experience in ecological engineering and natural resource construction. He is a graduate of Butler University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. His in-depth knowledge of economic and project development has helped generate opportunities for financially responsible solutions to complex issues related to watershed restoration, industry and development regulations, wet weather management using Sustainable Infrastructure and high performance design. Neil is integral in identifying pioneering-type projects, while developing a talented team of multi-disciplinary professionals to provide Triple Bottom Line solutions satisfying all project stakeholders. He is a regular speaker at national conferences and regional seminars focusing on Sustainability based initiatives and Net Zero Water possibilities.