Territories of Practice Elective:- Sustainable Design, An Evaluative Report

I have been aware of the Sustainability issue for a long time, especially since the beginning of my studies. The subject of Sustainability often features within the media, and my research has introduced me to several projects with ecological agendas. Living with a lesser environmental impact is something I address in my daily life, but in terms of my work, I knew there must be so much more that I could do to improve.  I chose to participate in the Sustainable design elective because of the frequency with which I was faced with the issue of Sustainability. I was increasingly aware of the topic and therefore felt it was vital that I, as an aspiring designer, gained a better and more meaningful understanding of it.

As part of the elective we were asked to conduct a blog. This was a new experience for me. I have always enjoyed keeping sketchbooks and journals that log ideas and inspiration, and found the process of keeping a blog similar. I found that by keeping a blog I was much more aware of recording an idea, and thinking in far more detail about what it’s relevance was. As a result of keeping the blog I feel I have improved my research abilities, and that it has helped me to be more evaluative of this research.  An aspect of the blog that differs from a journal is the fact that it is public- the information I post is shared with a world wide community, providing a platform for discussion and a place to share ideas. From the lectures I have seen the importance of collaboration between designers, and how sharing information is the best way to promote sustainable choices and develop innovative ideas. My blog is now a useful tool for me to store ideas, but also reflect upon and refer to during future projects.

The lectures in this elective aimed to explore the role that designers play in sustainability and the strategies that can be put in place to make and strategic change towards sustainability. By looking in detail at the “TED TEN” developed by the Textiles Environment Design research project at Chelsea.

I found the TED TEN so insightful, and going through the strategies opened my eyes to so many aspects of sustainability that I had never even considered before. I think the strategies are an incredibly useful tool to use as a reference, and to reflect critically on weather my projects adhere to the approaches. I learnt that I need to think more carefully about aspects of sustainable design in a broader context. I can now see the importance of ethical and activist considerations, as well as the need to consider the entire life cycle of a design as opposed to just the materials used to create it in the present.

Going through the lectures it became clear that the TED TEN strategies have links within one another, and I have come to understand that there is not one single answer to sustainability, and there never will be. A truly sustainable project is achieved through making a series of considered design decisions that innovatively explore different approaches to sustainability and apply multiple strategies to achieve the most effective results.

One quote that I found profound, and has stuck with me is “decisions made in design are responsible for eighty to ninety percent of a product’s environmental and economic costs” (Graedel et al. 1995). I would never have considered the impact was so great at the design stage, yet seeing it put so plainly like this, and in the context of the lecture series, it becomes obvious, and gave me huge sense of perspective, highlighting to me the degree of accountability that falls to designers to act upon sustainable strategies.

The lectures have provided me with a wide variety of resources with which to continue my learning. I have been introduced to practicing designers, whose work I found inspiring and intend to follow the progress of.  Presented with a collection of websites and books to explore I have been able to build a “catalogue” of stimulating information to support and inform my own work. This “catalogue” is one I intend to continually add to, keeping my knowledge up to date and connected to the innovations that are always developing towards sustainable design, in turn ensuring my work always has the most sustainable potential.

My second year BA Interior and Spatial Design project has progressed alongside the elective, and as a result I was able to directly incorporate my newly acquired knowledge throughout the development stages of my project and apply the ideas that were discussed.

The lectures have completely transformed my understanding of the word “sustainable” and the extent of the criteria labelling something with the term entails. Going forward I intend to develop a personal manifesto of strategies to apply to my practice. This manifesto will be adaptable so that it remains relevant to the variety of work that I hope to partake in the future.

Amazing Books

I have loved learning more about sustainability, and the issue is becoming increasingly important to me. I know there is so much more I need to learn, and I went on the hunt for some books to read and gain knowledge of more views, perspectives and approaches to sustainable design. 

After a lovely day browsing through London’s book shops here is my reading list:-

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SINCLAIR. C, 2006, Design Like You Give A Damn, New York, Metropolis Books

(image reference: 10/01/2014, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Design-Like-Give-Damn-Architectural/dp/0500342199, website)

 

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Lupton. E and Miller. A, 2009, Design For A Living World, New York, Cooper-Hewitt/National Design Museum

(image reference: 10/01/2014, http://www.designersandbooks.com/book/design-living-world, website)

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Schwartz. M and Waugh. E, 2011, Recycling Spaces: Curating Urban Evolution, California, Novato

(image reference: 10/01/2014, http://worldlandscapearchitect.com/2013BR/MSP/Cover.jpg, website)

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Richardson.P, 2007, XS Green: big ideas, small spaces, London, Thames and Hudson

(image reference: 10/01/2014, http://www.thamesandhudson.com/XS_Green/9780500342305, website)

Multi Functional Products

Design Collective Ten created a series of sustainable wooden products for the company 100% design. As a group of collaborating designers they aim to make sustainable products beautiful and accessible, with a drive for ethical and eco production. The resulting items are simple, but I love the fact that many have more than one use, demonstrating ways to extend a products life cycle. For example, a toy truck that doubles up as a storage container or a toy car that can be used as a door stop. Other products encourage a sustainable behavior, like the bird feeder, which hopes to provide more friendly urban habitats for wildlife by getting people the engage with the environment.

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Reference: 11/01/2014, http://www.dezeen.com/2008/09/12/wood-at-100-design/, website

Phillips LED fluorescent tube bulbs

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I really despise fluorescent tube lights. They emit a glum, unflattering light, if you can call it “light”, and their inefficiency is frustrating, yet they are used so frequently in public places. This is why I was happy to see the news that Phillips have developed an LED bulb for use in the (horrid) fluorescent tubes.  I don’t know why it has taken SO long to develop this bulb when you consider how long such bulbs have been available for other lights, but hopefully this will improve the light quality, and at the same time use 50 percent less energy. Improvements all round!

Reference: 11/01/2014, http://inhabitat.com/infographic-philips-instant-fit-led-tubes-cut-energy-use-in-half/, website

Reclaim Domestic Actions publication autumn 2013

ImageThis magazine publication was great to read. It puts forward 54 actions or “re-processes” for architects and interior designers to consider during construction renovation of architecture in order to achieve living that is based on needs, and in turn, more sustainable results. There are similarities between the ideas here and those addressed within the Ted Ten, however the focus with this publication is on the built environment and presents ideas and examples that are particularly relevant to the design considerations that I make. The magazine highlights the importance of sustainable thinking from start to finish in order for it to be effective.

 Reference: Aurora Fernandes Per and Javier Mozas (editors), 2013, Reclaim Domestic Actions, Issue 41 Spring 2013, Spain,  a+t publishers.

Using the Underground as a source of Heat

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Islington council in London are beginning plans to supply cheaper power to every home in the borough by harnessing the excess heat from the Northern line. I think this is a brilliant idea and I am surprised it is not already common practice. I like the idea of searching for resources locally and putting waste into good use. It is an example of localised and site specific strategies for sustainability. It also approaches historical means of energy production, which was always produced locally and distributed locally up until the 20th century. If energy was produced locally on a wide spread basis, then sustainable methods can be used according to context, need, available resources and conditions.

Reference: 19/11/2013, http://www.islington.gov.uk/islington/news-events/news-releases/2013/11/Pages/PR5021.aspx, website

Atelier Tekuto- Earth Brick House

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Atelier Tekuto are an architectural studio based based in Japan. They devised a project with the aim to develop a widely available and environmental building material. They focused on soil- one of the earliest building materials. With research they found that adding Magnesium Oxide to natural clay soil makes it incredibly strong and durable. Magnesium Oxide is non-toxic and is not harmful to the environment (Magnesium Oxide is even added to some foods).

The studio formed the materials into bricks, easily manufactured and also possible to make by hand. The Bricks are 100 percent natural, and will stand for decades, at the same time as providing good insulation.

I am very interested in the idea of using the most basic and abundant of materials- earth- to make building materials. It is a method that has been used for centuries and centuries, but with the invention of concrete and steel was gradually over shadowed and somewhat forgotten in the building industry.

I think brick construction is commonly associated with victorian architecture and considered out dated or un attractive. Personally I think this is a misconception. Bricks do not have to be rectangular red blocks stacked one on top of the other. They can be formed into any shape or form, made from different materials that result in a variety of colours. The tessellation of the bricks can be creatively arranged, developing a sense of rhythm and movement through pattern. I also consider bricks to be a comforting material- tactile and warm, they offer a sense of solidarity and security. Having said this I can also see the potential in brick to be a delicate and fragile material, if made thinly like tiles, allowing for detail and elegance.

For my design project this year I would like to explore the potential of bricks, ways to reinvent their use to make something beautiful.

Reference: 14/11/2013, http://inhabitat.com/atelier-tekutos-earth-brick-house-is-the-epitome-of-efficient-local-design/, website