Sustainable design

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Sustainable design (environmental design, environmentally sustainable design (ESD), environmentally-conscious design) is the philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment and services to comply with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability.

The intention of sustainable design is to "eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful, sensitive design"[1]. Manifestations of sustainable designs require no non-renewable resources, impact on the environment minimally, and relate people with the natural environment.

Applications of this philosophy range from the microcosm - small objects for everyday use, through to the macrocosm - buildings, cities, and the earth's physical surface. It is a philosophy that can be applied in the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, engineering, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, and fashion design.

Sustainable design is mostly a general reaction to global environmental crises, the rapid growth of economic activity and human population, depletion of natural resources, damage to ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.[2]

The limits of sustainable design in reducing whole earth impacts are beginning to be considered because growth in goods and services is consistently outpacing gains in efficiency. As a result, the net effect of sustainable design to date has been to simply improve the efficiency of rapidly increasing impacts. The present approach, which focuses on the efficiency of delivering individual goods and services does not solve this problem. The basic dilemmas not yet well addressed include: the increasing complexity of efficiency improvements, the difficulty of implementing new technologies in societies built around old ones, that physical impacts of delivering goods and services are not localized but distributed throughout the economies, and that the scale of resource uses is growing and not stabilizing. 'Transformative' technologies are hoped for, but workable options are not yet evident. Only if the scale of resource uses stabilizes will the efficiency of how they are each delivered result in reducing total impacts.

The motivation for sustainable design was articulated famously in E. F. Schumacher's 1973 book Small Is Beautiful. In architecture, sustainable design is not the attachment or supplement of architectural design, but an integrated design process. This requires close cooperation of the design team, the architects, the engineers and the client at all project stages, from the site selection, scheme formation, material selection and procurement and project implementation. [3]


[edit] Principles of sustainable design

While the practical application varies among disciplines, some common principles are as follows:

  • Low-impact materials: choose non-toxic, sustainably-produced or recycled materials which require little energy to process
  • Energy efficiency: use manufacturing processes and produce products which require less energy
  • Quality and durability: longer-lasting and better-functioning products will have to be replaced less frequently, reducing the impacts of producing replacements
  • Design for reuse and recycling: "Products, processes, and systems should be designed for performance in a commercial 'afterlife'."[4]
  • Design Impact Measures for total earth footprint and life-cycle assessment for any resource use are increasingly required and available. Many are complex, but some give a quick and accurate whole earth estimates of impacts. One is estimating any spending as consuming an average economic share of global energy use as 8000btu/$ and CO2 production of .57kgCO2/$ (1995$) from DOE figures. [5]
  • Sustainable Design Standards and project design guides are also increasingly available and are vigorously being developed by a wide array of private organizations and individuals. There is also a large body of new methods emerging from the rapid development of what has become known as 'sustainability science' promoted by a wide variety of educational and governmental institutions.
  • Biomimicry: "redesigning industrial systems on biological lines ... enabling the constant reuse of materials in continuous closed cycles..."[6]
  • Service substitution: shifting the mode of consumption from personal ownership of products to provision of services which provide similar functions, e.g. from a private automobile to a carsharing service. Such a system promotes minimal resource use per unit of consumption (e.g., per trip driven).[7]
  • Renewability: materials should come from nearby (local or bioregional), sustainably-managed renewable sources that can be composted (or fed to livestock) when their usefulness has been exhausted.
  • Healthy Buildings: sustainable building design aims to create buildings that are not harmful to their occupants nor to the larger environment. An important emphasis is on indoor environmental quality, especially indoor air quality. [8]

[edit] Conceptual Problems to Solve

  • Diminishing Returns: The principle that all directions of progress run out, ending with diminishing returns, is evident in the typical 'S' curve of The Technology Life Cycle and in the useful life of any system as discussed in Industrial Ecology and Life Cycle Assessment. It's as reliable an expectation as any principle of science that diminishing returns signal natural limits. Common office and business management practice is to read diminishing returns in any direction of effort as an indication of diminishing opportunity, a potential for accelerating their decline and signal to turn elsewhere. see also: Law of Diminishing Returns and Marginal Utility and Jevon's paradox.
  • Unsustainable Investment: A problem arises when the limits of a resource are hard to see, so increasing investment in response to diminishing returns may seem profitable as in the Tragedy of the Commons, but may lead to a collapse. This problem of increasing investment in diminishing resources has also been studied in relation to the causes of civilization collapse by Joseph Tainter[9] among others. This natural error in investment policy contributed to both the Roman and Mayan collapses, among others. That 'sustaining development' can be confused with 'sustaining resources', and the global scope of our investment with effects we don't see, however, should be a great concern. Relieving over-stressed resources requires reducing pressure on them, not continually increasing it whether more efficiently or not [10]

[edit] Sustainable planning

Cohousing community illustrating greenspace preservation, tightly clustered housing, and parking on periphery, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2003.

Urban planners that are interested in achieving sustainable development or sustainable cities use various design principles and techniques when designing cities and their infrastructure. These include Smart Growth theory, Transit-oriented development, sustainable urban infrastructure and New Urbanism. Smart Growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in the center of a city to avoid urban sprawl; and advocates compact, transit-oriented development, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including mixed-use development with a range of housing choices. Transit-oriented development attempts to maximise access to public transport and thereby reduce the need for private vehicles. Public transport is considered a form of Sustainable urban infrastructure, which is a design approach which promotes protected areas, energy-efficient buildings, wildlife corridors and distributed, rather than centralised, power generation and wastewater treatment. New urbanism is more of a social and aesthetic urban design movement than a green one, but it does emphasize diversity of land use and population, as well as walkable communities which inherently reduce the need for automotive travel.

Both urban and rural planning can benefit from including sustainability as a central criterion when laying out roads, streets, buildings and other components of the built environment. Conventional planning practice often ignores or discounts the natural configuration of the land during the planning stages, potentially causing ecological damage such as the stagnation of streams, mudslides, soil erosion, flooding and pollution. Applying methods such as scientific modelling to planned building projects can draw attention to problems before construction begins, helping to minimise damage to the natural environment.

Cohousing is an approach to planning based on the idea of intentional communities. Such projects often prioritize common space over private space resulting in grouped structures that preserve more of the surrounding environment.

[edit] Sustainable architecture

Sustainable architecture is the design of sustainable buildings. Sustainable architecture attempts to reduce the collective environmental impacts during the production of building components, during the construction process, as well as during the lifecycle of the building (heating, electricity use, carpet cleaning etc) This design practice emphasizes efficiency of heating and cooling systems, alternative energy sources such as solar hot water, appropriate building siting, reused or recycled building materials, on-site power generation (solar technology, ground source heat pumps, wind power), rainwater harvesting for gardening and washing, and on-site waste management such as green roofs that filter and control stormwater runoff. Sustainable architects design with sustainable living in mind.[11]

[edit] Sustainable landscape architecture

Sustainable landscape architecture is a category of sustainable design concerned with the planning and design of outdoor space. Design techniques include planting trees to shade buildings from the sun or protect them from wind, using local materials, on-site composting and chipping to reduce greenwaste hauling, and also may involve using drought-resistant plantings in arid areas (xeriscaping)and buying stock from local growers to avoid energy use in transportation.

[edit] Sustainable graphic design

Sustainable graphic design considers the environmental impacts of graphic design products (such as packaging, printed materials, publications, etc.) throughout a life cycle that includes: raw material; transformation; manufacturing; transportation; use; and disposal. Techniques for sustainable graphic design include: reducing the amount of materials required for production; using paper and materials made with recycled, post-consumer waste; printing with low-VOC inks; and using production and distribution methods that require the least amount of transport.

[edit] Other examples of sustainable design

A wind turbine

[edit] Agriculture

There are strenuous discussions - among others by the agricultural sector and authorities - if existing pesticide protocols and methods of soil conservation adequately protect topsoil and wildlife. Doubt has risen if these are sustainable, and if agrarian reforms would permit an efficient agriculture with fewer pesticides, therefore reducing the damage to the ecosystem.

[edit] Domestic machinery

Automobiles and appliances can be designed for repair and disassembly (for recycling), and constructed from recyclable materials such as steel, aluminum and glass, and renewable materials, such as Zelfo, wood and plastics from natural feedstocks. Careful selection of materials and manufacturing processes can often create products comparable in price and performance to non-sustainable products. Even mild design efforts can greatly increase the sustainable content of manufactured items.

[edit] Disposable products

Detergents, newspapers and other disposable items can be designed to decompose, in the presence of air, water and common soil organisms. The current challenge in this area is to design such items in attractive colors, at costs as low as competing items. Since most such items end up in landfills, protected from air and water, the utility of such disposable products is debated.

[edit] Energy Sector

Sustainable technology in the energy sector is based on utilizing renewable sources of energy such as solar, wind, hydro, bioenergy, geothermal, and hydrogen. Wind energy is the world's fastest growing energy source, it has been in use for centuries in Europe and more recently in the United States and other nations. Wind energy is captured through the use of wind turbines that generate and transfer electricity for utilities, homeowners and remote villages. Solar power can be harnessed through photovoltaics, concentrating solar, or solar hot water and is also a rapidly growing energy source.[12]

[edit] Sustainable technologies

Sustainable technologies are technologies which use less energy, fewer limited resources, do not deplete natural resources, do not directly or indirectly pollute the environment, and can be reused or recycled at the end of their useful life.[3] There is a significant overlap with appropriate technology, which emphasizes the suitability of technology to the context, in particular considering the needs of people in developing countries. However, the most appropriate technology may not be the most sustainable one; and a sustainable technology may have high cost or maintenance requirements that make it unsuitable as an "appropriate technology," as that term is commonly used.

[edit] Encouraging sustainability

The use of sustainable technologies may be encouraged through means such as reducing the capacity of the electrical cable supplying a home, such as Australia's Crystal Waters Village.[13] In some cases the electricity supplier charges a higher rate for the energy used when the capacity of the supply is increased (for example, in Indonesia[citation needed]).

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of certificate and degree programs offered with a concentration in sustainable design.Carnegie Mellon University's Master of Science in Sustainable Design degree [4] program provides an integrated education that strives to prepare its graduates for careers that will reshape the built environment in a sustainable fashion. This challenging program is intended for recent graduates and practicing professionals with degrees related to the built environment including architecture, landscape architecture, ecology, engineering, construction, interior architecture/ design, facilities management and others. Carnegie Mellon School of Architecture was recently ranked # 1 in sustainable design in the United States by Design Intelligence.

Boston Architectural College offers both a certificate in sustainable design, as well as a bachelor of design studies degree with a concentration in sustainable design. Additionally, the University of Texas main campus in Austin offers a Master of Science in Sustainable Design degree as well as a masters degree in architecture with emphasis on sustainable design.[14] Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA has a growing sustainable design program as a cooperation between the Industrial Design major the and Huxley College of the Environment.[15] With an increased focus on the importance of sustainable design globally, there is likely to be higher demand for professionals educated specifically in this discipline. In 2007, Philadelphia University began offering a Master of Science in Sustainable Design degree.[16] This program seeks a horizontal acquisition of knowledge and skills based on collaborative and interdisciplinary work.

Minneapolis College of Art and Design's ground breaking Sustainable Design Certificate Program is the first ever accredited online certificate program not exclusive to architecture, focusing on sustainability ideas that can be applied to any effort. The program was developed, and is taught, by long-standing eco-practitioners and advocates for sustainable design, including members of: Worldchanging, Biomimicry Guild, The Natural Step, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and the Permaculture Guild, with the core group coming from the o2 Global Network. As an all online program, students come from all industries, cultures, and career stages to share ideas and insights while learning how to apply systems thinking to their own work. Not limited to designers, business and government decision makers find they not only learn how to apply sustainability systems thinking, but learn creative out-of-the-box thinking as well.

[edit] Terminology

In some countries the term sustainable design is known as Ecodesign, green design or environmental design. Ecodesign as meant by Victor Papanek, did include social design and social aspects. Over the past years the terms sustainable design and design for sustainability - besides other new terms - became more accepted globally, including the triple bottom line (people, planet and profit).

[edit] See also

[edit] Advocates and practitioners

[edit] Organizations

[edit] References

  1. ^ McLennan, J. F. (2004), The Philosophy of Sustainable Design
  2. ^ Fan Shu-Yang, Bill Freedman, and Raymond Cote (2004). "Principles and practice of ecological design". Environmental Reviews. 12: 97–112. link
  3. ^ Ji Yan and Plainiotis Stellios (2006): Design for Sustainability. Beijing: China Architecture and Building Press. ISBN 7-112-08390-7
  4. ^ Anastas, P. L. and Zimmerman, J. B. (2003). "Through the 12 principles of green engineering". Environmental Science and Technology. March 1. 95-101A.
  5. ^ [1] US DOE 20 yr Global Product & Energy Study.
  6. ^ Paul Hawken, Amory B. Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins (1999). Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. Little, Brown.
  7. ^ Ryan, Chris (2006). "Dematerializing Consumption through Service Substitution is a Design Challenge". Journal of Industrial Ecology. 4(1).
  8. ^ Levin, Hal (1995). "Building Ecology: An architect's perspective on Healthy Buildings." Proceedings of Healthy Buildings '95. Accessed at Articles on Building Ecology web site.
  9. ^ JA Tainter 1988 The Collapse of Complex Societies Cambridge Univ. Press
  10. ^ [2] Buzz Holling 1973 Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems
  11. ^ Holm, Ivar (2006). Ideas and Beliefs in Architecture and Industrial design: How attitudes, orientations, and underlying assumptions shape the built environment. Oslo School of Architecture and Design. ISBN 8254701741.
  12. ^ "Renewable Energy Policy Project & CREST Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology"
  13. ^ Crystal Waters Village
  14. ^ University of Texas - sustainable design program
  15. ^ WWU Sustainable Design program
  16. ^ MS in Sustainable Design Philadelphia University

[edit] External links

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