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What Is Sustainable Design?

Some interior designers specialize in using earth-friendly and sustainably harvested materials.
Some fashion designers create clothing lines with renewable resources.
Individual buildings and even cities can be designed in a sustainable manner.
Sustainable buildings make the most efficient use of energy and resources for their lighting, ventilation and other systems.
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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2014
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Sustainable design is a kind of design meant to yield products that are made only of renewable resources. Furthermore, products made with this type of design are intended not to seriously impact the environment either when they are being created or when they are being used. These products are also often designed to allow the users to feel more connected or to relate more closely to the natural environment.

Sustainable design is also called "environmental design" and "environmentally-conscious design." No matter what it is called, this kind of a design is just as much a philosophy as it is a practice. It is based on economic, ecological, and social principles regarding the importance of sustainability.

Products that are yielded from this kind of design range from the tiny to the massive. A tote bag made of recycled products that is intended to be used instead of paper or plastic bags at the grocery store is an example of sustainable design. While this everyday product is small, when folded up, to fit inside of a purse, it is a perfect example of the philosophy of sustainable design.

This style of design can create much, much larger products. In fact, this kind of design can be used to create buildings, even skyscrapers. In fact, it can be used to plan and develop entire cities. Not only can it be applied to civil engineering and architecture, but it can also be applied to landscape architecture.

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Some fashion designers have also used the philosophy of sustainable design in their work by producing entire lines of clothing that are made with renewable resources. Interior designers have done the same by using earth-friendly fabrics, wall coverings, and flooring materials in their work. Because of this new trend among fashion and interior designers, many textile companies have begun to market more fabrics made out of renewable resources.

For the past few decades, it has become increasingly clear that it is important to protect the earth and its resources. Many researchers and activists have pointed out that if we reap the earth of all of its resources that we will leave ourselves without a place to live. The philosophy of sustainable design leads to a way of life and products that are used during everyday life that protect the earth and sustain its resources so that it can continue provide humans with sufficient resources.

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Discuss this Article

mgoldberg
Post 7

There is a really interesting article from Millennial Magazine about how a design firm in South America is using recycled plastic 2 liter bottles filled with sand for building materials used in home construction. The title of the article is "Waste Not Want Not" by Britt Hysen. With minds like these, our planet may just have a chance after all.

anon177703
Post 4

In its purest sense, sustainable design is design that does not detract more from the local environment than it contributes. When I say environment, I mean a closed or semi-closed system and everything within its boundaries. For example, a building that is the product of sustainable design will do its part to create efficient use of resources, create aesthetic appeal, be economically feasible, coexist with local flora and fauna, and serve the needs of its inhabitants. This is not to say that there will not be trade-offs, but these trade-offs must fulfill some purpose and not cause unnecessary amounts of degradation to the local environment.

To put this into an example, I will outline a sustainable home in a desert climate. The design of the home will incorporate locally sourced materials like stone. The building will use very little water and efficiently recycle water resources, much like any other system in the desert. The home should also use techniques to ventilate and cool the home that are commonly found in natural systems of the area. For example, building the southern face of the structure into an embankment or cliff face.

Lastly, the structure should not destroy the ecosystem for purely aesthetic means. Essentially, the structure should become a functioning part of the local environment, creating continuity with the natural landscape.

anon153701
Post 3

sustainable means the earth can absorb all the materials from that product and it does not having any adverse effects on the surroundings. --Gajanan P.

Fiorite
Post 2

In engineering Good design encompasses a few key components. Good design meets the needs of the client, is enjoyable to look at, is functional and maintainable, is efficient, offers value for the client’s money, and balances capital investment and operational costs.

If I were to describe sustainable design I would say that it encompasses all of the attributes of good design while ensuring that its manufacturing processes, operational efficiency, and decommissioning all have the smallest impact on the surrounding environment as possible. I believe that ultimately design strives to be sustainable, but the understanding of the complex forces that dictate the total ecological impact of society is still being developed.

It used to be that you could think of a building project as sustainable by examining its direct and immediate impact on a site. Now, the entire supply chain of that project has to be examined. The life cycle of every resource that goes into the design of a product has to be examined before it is deemed sustainable.

Babalaas
Post 1

In its purest sense sustainable design is design that does not detract more from the local environment than it contributes. When I say environment I mean a closed or semi-closed system and everything within its boundaries. For example a building that is the product of sustainable design will do its part to create efficient use of resources, create aesthetic appeal, be economically feasible, coexist with local flora and fauna, and serve the needs of its inhabitants. This is not to say that there will not be trade-offs, but these trade-offs must fulfill some purpose and not cause unnecessary amounts of degradation to the local environment.

To put this into an example I will outline a sustainable home in a desert climate. The design of the home will incorporate locally sourced materials like stone. The building will use very little water and efficiently recycle water resources much like any other system in the desert. The home should also use techniques to ventilate and cool the home that are commonly found in natural systems of the area; for example, building the southern face of the structure into an embankment or cliff face. Lastly the structure should not destroy the ecosystem for purely aesthetic means. Essentially the structure should become a functioning part of the local environment, creating continuity with the natural landscape.

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