About Daniel McQuillen

I work as an independent interactive developer through my company McQuillen Interactive. In the meantime I’m involved various things: hiking with my wife and kids, programming, learning about permaculture, and of course the beautiful game.

My core interest, however, is in the cross-section of sustainable design and information technology … especially as it relates to things like green building and the life sciences. I was a founding editor of Environmental Design and Construction (the brainchild of John Sailer).

These days, I’m focused on how technology can be used to spread ideas and knowledge about sustainable design. I’m working to keep focused on a few ideas:

  • Alternative energy and energy efficiency are the keys to a positive future.
  • The oceans remember what we put in and take out.
  • We become what we watch, eat, drink and breathe.
  • Things people figured out a long time ago are still relevant.
  • There’s much to do to make the world more equitable, compassionate, safe and well fed.


So What Can I Do?

I think our most powerful ability is adapting to change while trying to make better choices, helping correct past mistakes, and growing in the process. Part of that adaptation is uniting ancient knowledge and modern technology. I don’t aspire to turn back the clock, but people did figure out how to do many things in very clever and sustainable ways (Ayurveda, Tibet’s science of mind and compassion, sustainable farming techniques, living in small groups, myth and community). And now here we are, with the tools that we’ve built for better or for worse, so how to make it for the better.


A Small Part

My goal is to help transmit techniques and bring sustainable technologies to a wider audience. Working as a consultant, I’ve helped create interactive e-Learning modules to train HVAC engineers on energy efficiency for large buildings. I worked with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories to createCOMFEN, a desktop application that helps architects and engineers make buildings more efficient. I’m also working with the iBiology.org team to create an online course on doing good science.

I want to learn more about how to make old knowledge new. There’s a lot of ancient and practical knowledge out there, knowledge that — like many species — continues to degrade and dissolve.


The Challenge

When I was growing up, one person outside of my parents had a real influence on me, a friend of mine named Brian. Brian lives in Pennsylvania, USA, with his partner Patty (an accomplished healer and photographer).

Brian is pretty special guy: he builds houses by himself based on skills he learned at the Shelter Institute. He creates art from driftwood. His houses and art are really fantastic, but that’s not what makes Brian important to me.

Brian helped me to think about life’s choices creatively. “Why…” he asked one day in the “Ultimate Questions” high school philosophy class he taught, “do you have to live like you’re supposed to? Why do you have to do what’s expected?”

To learn from others is important. To be aware of creative possibility is fundamental. Brian has had artwork in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. He’s taught himself how to build houses as a livelihood, taught philosophy, made furniture, collaborated with artists, and raised a great family. And he keeps coming up with fantastically inventive projects that have a deep, profound feeling that I can only explain as mythical.

All this was possible because he nurtured his creativity and honed the part of the mind that is called to action when one must discover his own way. He said once that people might look at how he does things and see inefficiency or areas for streamlining or refinement. But he learned how to do it and now these things are real. There is no way to learn how to do this than to do.

Brian’s challenge to me was to see the true extent of possibility. Not just the few pasted to billboards, reinforced in movies, sold in magazines, or baked into terms like GDP. And then, with patience, to rely on the power of our own creativity. As things change in the coming years, we need to re-learn how to learn. Re-discover how to invent. Remember how to heal. To return to a more human level, with respect for the sacred.





Past Publications

Environmental Building