Territories of Practice, Lecture Reflections

TEDThe first in this lecture series introduced us to the “Ted Ten”- A practical and accessible manifesto divided into 10 steps, promoting a “strategic change” towards sustainable design. Whilst the Ted Ten focuses on the textiles industry, I found it equally relevant and and applicable to architecture and the wider design spectrum. As the lectures progress we will discuss the Ted Ten in more detail, and I am looking forward to learning ways in which I can put the ideas into practice.

It is estimated that around eighty to ninety percent of a products economical and environmental impact are dependable on decisions made at the design stage. This surprised me at first, but it actually makes complete sense, and just emphasises the huge role that designers have to play in shaping a sustainable future.

Another idea we were introduced to was the “Five Capitals Model”. This looks at products in relation to natural, human, social, manufactured and financial influences, and how to achieve a maximum positive  “capital” in each sector. The number one thing I am always thinking about when designing is the effect on people, but the Five Capitals Model has highlighted to me that I need to consider my work in a broader context.

The first lecture has given me so much to think about already! I certainly feel inspired, and will be in the library first thing tomorrow hunting for the books on the reference list!

Referernce:- Introduction Lecture

“Star Path” by Pro-Tec

Pro-Tec have designed an aggregate like material used for hard wearing paving which can absorb ultra violet light (from the sun) during the day, in turn releasing a glow at night. The idea is to reduce the need for electrical street lamps and lighting, for environmental and financial benefits. From what I can tell it works much in the same way as the glow in stars, and from what I can see from this photograph (a trial of the StarPath in Cambridge Park) offers the same luminescence. Although I am unsure about the bright blue, maybe for me a more natural hue would sit better, especially in a rural area, I do love the idea, and the ambience it offers.
The light you get from glow in the dark materials is unlike sunlight or electric light, it reminds me more of how the moon glows. The subtlety is calming and could help to create a relaxing atmosphere in an architectural space.

Reference: – 22/10/2013, http://www.pro-teqsurfacing.com, website

saving money, saving resources

One thing I have realised over the past couple of weeks is the relationship between abundance and use.
As a student, my budget is really tight. As a result, I am eager to be very resourceful in order to please my purse.  I ensure that I use up every last scrap of food I buy in one way or another. I won’t throw away bread if it gets a little stale or even shows signs of mould (just chop those bits off and toast- you’d never know!). I buy the basic range foods when it comes to beans and pastas and fruits and veg, which are unlikely to be organic, but they are packaged very minimally, unlike some more expensive brands with which you pay for fancy packaging overload I admit this is really very appealing, but drastically un necessary in all honesty). I would never pay for bottled water, I just always carry a re useable bottle with me, which day to day saves a lot of plastic. I am really careful with the paper that I use, it would be so easy to get through sheets and sheets of the stuff as an art student, but I draw and sketch onto old metro papers, only using cartridge paper when it comes down to final pieces because it’s so costly. This year, I will definitely be buying recycled paper, in fact I much prefer the unbleached and fibrous  papers that feel much softer and give my drawings a bit of life. There are many other little examples, and I know I have become a lot more savvy than when I was at home, living off my parents money! It is an extra incentive to be creative with the things I use now realising not only does it save money, but reduces my impact on the planet too.

Over the course of my project I want to seek out as many ways as possible to be more sustainable when producing my work  and perhaps track how this effects the financial costs as well, because I just hate it when people say “our budget did not allow for the more environmental option…” and other excuses along those lines.

“Solar Ivy” by SMIT


I really liked the potential of this product designed by Sam and Teresita Cochran. Their idea is based around the creating modular “leaves” that can harness energy through photovoltaic cells, which, like ivy, can spread in varying density over the facade of a building. I think this product is so appealing because it doesn’t matter what size or energy need the architecture may have because the number of cells you apply is completely flexible.

The cells, (which themselves are recyclable) are attached to the surface of a building, are free to flutter and move about in the wind like real leaves, capturing sunlight from various angles. The energy is then stored in batteries for later use. SMIT have made the ivy “customisable” and can come in endless colour variations. I think this gives the solar leaves a new aesthetic which could appeal to customers that otherwise might dismiss large solar panels stuck on their roof.

Thinking about my current project, (briefed to design a piece of architectural “furniture”) I am inspired by the scale of these cells. I like the potential to incorporate lights that are powered by discretely attached cells, choosing a sufficient number to meet the needs of the individual product. Whilst personally I am unsure that the style would suit every building, perhaps SMIT could offer transparent options on a similar scale that are largely invisible.

Reference: – 21/10/2013, http://solarivy.com/the_idea, website

DBA 98 ballpoint pen by DBA

DBA (product designers) re worked the ball point pen into something that is 98 percent biodegradable. I have never even considered the impact on the environment that something like a ball point pen has. Now this seems so naive, and it’s awful to think how many cheap packs of pens I have gone through, losing them or getting rid of them way before I have even used up all the ink. Now this may be a tiny product, but multiplied the materials add up. Worldwide, if it became standard to make pens using DBA’s model, then that’s a big saving considering 1.6 billion pens are thrown into land fill every year.


The ink in this pen is non-toxic and water based, and made using potato bio-plastic. Once used it is designed to be composted and “safely returned to earth” within 180 days, in contrast to standard pens which will long outlive their user, and pollute the earth with inky and plastic chemicals. The only non degradable part of the pen is the stainless steel nib. The designers are keen to come up with an alternative.

Not only is the product itself sustainable, the packaging is kept to a minimum, and made from recycled and recyclable paper printed with vegetable inks. The manufacturing process is even eco friendly, as they are produced responsibly in a factory that is entirely powered by wind energy.

Seeing this project has really made me think about EVERYTHING I use, and made me realise how much I take for granted.

Reference: -18/10/2013, http://www.dba-co.com/pen/, website

‘Vitamin Green’ by Phaidon

This is a great book which I found in the library. It discusses our “culture of overabundance” which is draining the earth of it’s resources, and celebrates examples of design that think about building a sustainable future. It offers insightful descriptions of how designers have achieved their products, and demonstrates the materials and methods involved. In some cases advanced smart technologies are employed, but what I found most inspiring and accessible were the examples of projects that thrive from basic ideas such as thinking of new ways to use old materials and using simple construction processes that mean things can be built by hand. These are ideas that I can think about incorporating into my own work, and that encourage me to be more experimental and creative when it comes to choosing materials.

vitamin green


Reference: –  Bolchover. J, 2012, Vitamin Green, London, Phaidon Press

Learning from nature

This was the first talk I ever watched on TED, and it really stuck with me. The idea of “using nature as a design tool” inspires me. The fact that nature can teach us so much about materials and construction is amazing considering we often presume we can solve any problem via digital technology. By learning from nature we can actually make far more resourceful and efficient architectures, in a manner that does’t drain the earth, but supports it, keeps it healthy.