domingo, septiembre 17, 2006

The role of the designer

The scale of resource and environmental impact reduction (between 15 and 100 percent) which Friends of the Earth suggests is necessary is also supported by other authors. Ehrlich and Ehrlich (1990) for example, consider environmental impact to be dependent on a number of factors, among them population size and environmental efficiency of current technologies. They argue that in order to maintain environmental impacts at their current level, the desired size of impact reduction over the next forty years, a period in which world population is set to double, is predicted to lie between a factor of four and a factor of 20. In essence it states that in order to contain pollution levels as consumption increases, the environmental impact of products and services will have to be reduced by up to 95 percent, or to one twentieth of today's level.The concept of 'factor 20 reductions', while initiated by population experts Paul and Anne Ehrlich has since been adapted, most notably by Ezio Manzini (1994) and more recently by the popular text Factor Four (von Weizs„cker, Lovins and Lovins, 1998), to illustrate the enormity of the task ahead of the design professions. The environmental benefit, in terms of factor 'x' impact reduction, which various design for sustainability approaches have the potential to deliver has been much discussed. Brezet (1997, p22) suggests that ecodesign, through incremental improvement to processes and products, can bring reductions in impact of up to a factor of four - see diagram. In order to achieve factor 20 reductions in impact, he argues that a radical re-conceptualisation of both demand and supply is necessary. This will involve a switch away from product optimisation to functional innovation, mirrored by a shift in focus from the product to the system level, so allowing the broader inefficiencies, inherent to the system of production itself, to be addressed.

Ehrlich, P. and Ehrlich, A. (1990), The Population Explosion, London: Hutchinson.Von Weizs„cker, Lovins, A.B. and Lovins, L.H. (1997), Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use, London: Earthscan.Manzini, E. (1994), Design, environment

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