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A Manifesto for Sustainability in Design

by mel starrs on April 17, 2007

in Manifestos

Ankar Wat

Found via:: WorldChanging, a manifesto from Allan Chochinov of Core 77 (online design magazine). The full 1000 word manifesto is worth a read but the headings are as follows:

  1. Hippocratic before Socratic
  2. Stop making crap
  3. Systems before artifacts
  4. Teach sustainability early
  5. Screws better than glues
  6. Design for impermanence
  7. Balance before talents
  8. Metrics before magic
  9. Climates before primates
  10. Context before absolutely everything

I’m particularly struck with no.6 – design for impermanence. Designing for things to be reusable or recyclable begins to make sense, against building artefacts that will exist for many many generations to come, when viewed in the context of how planet earth manufactures, tools, and recycles things. There’s a whole area to be explored here, looking at history, culture, and how human emotions get jumbled up in the things we produce. The image above is of Ankar Wat in Cambodia. By embracing the concept of impermanence, we lose the ability to leave something of ourselves behind for future generations. Is this something the human race can do or is it inherently in our nature to construct monuments of our time?

This list reminded me of the Hannover Principles, from 1992, of Bill McDonough, now more well know for the Cradle to Cradle approach. The Hannover Principles are listed below, but the full 59 page pdf can be downloaded from here. Some common themes, including impermanence or as McDonough characterises it, humility:

  1. Insist on rights of humanity and nature to co-exist in a healthy, supportive, diverse and sustainable condition.
  2. Recognize interdependence. The elements of human design interact with and depend upon the natural world, with broad and diverse implications at every scale. Expand design considerations to recognizing even distant effects.
  3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter. Consider all aspects of human settlement including community, dwelling, industry and trade in terms of existing and evolving connections between spiritual and material consciousness.
  4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design decisions upon human well-being, the viability of natural systems, and their right to co-exist.
  5. Create safe objects of long-term value. Do not burden future generations with requirements for maintenance of vigilant administration of potential danger due to the careless creation of products, processes or standards.
  6. Eliminate the concept of waste. Evaluate and optimize the full life cycle of products and processes, to approach the state of natural systems, in which there is no waste.
  7. Rely on natural energy flows. Human designs should, like the living world, derive their creative forces from perpetual solar income. Incorporate the energy efficiently and safely for responsible use.
  8. Understand the limitations of design. No human creation lasts forever and design does not solve all problems. Those who create and plan should practice humility in the face of nature. Treat nature as a model and mentor, not an inconvenience to be evaded or controlled.
  9. Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge. Encourage direct and open communication between colleagues, patrons, manufacturers and users to link long-term sustainable considerations with ethical responsibility, and re-establish the integral relationship between natural processes and human activity.