There is a lizard in the Sahara that turns white to reflect sunlight and has long legs to lift itself off the hot desert floor. Camels store fat in their humps, have long eyelashes for wind-blown sand, and special knee pads for the scorching ground. Saguaros are approximately 60% self-shading due to a circular shape, vertical ribbing (or flutes) and thorn distribution. The fact here is that nature is an excellent designer and source of inspiration on how to live in the desert.
Now that "green" building and LEED certification are becoming important considerations in architecture, the public is more aware of "eco-friendly" building design options and strategies. However, many of these design features, namely passive solar, have been used for thousands of years at little to no additional cost. I believe that a thorough observation of nature will reveal intelligent, creative and endless varieties of design responses to the local climate, resulting in harmonious structures integral to the landscape and Client needs.
Simple passive solar techniques that can be employed based on analysis of climate information include: proper building orientation to the sun and prominent breezes, light colors to reflect the sun's rays (often suggested on the news for light-colored clothing to help keep cool), high ceilings with operable windows for breezes and heat escape, wise use of glass with adequate shade devices, thermal mass for heat storage and dissipation, and, most importantly, an insulated "hat" (roof) with sufficient overhangs for a sense of shelter and protection from the elements (which mainly come from above). It becomes quite apparent to me that these real, local conditions of our time should influence how our buildings "look", instead of pre-determined styles from an entirely different place and time.
I firmly believe that a building should be one with the desert, one with natureas natural a part of it as the saguaro and the lizard. The two should grow into one another, becoming an integral and essential part of each other. Nature is the ultimate context within which all man-made structures exist. Without nature we perish - both spiritually as well as physically. Both are only happy when we and nature co-mingle peacefully, respectfully and intelligently.