From linear to systemic: an integrated design solution for sustainable household consumption in Iceland

DS 85-1: Proceedings of NordDesign 2016, Volume 1, Trondheim, Norway, 10th - 12th August 2016

Year: 2016
Editor: Boks, Casper; Sigurjonsson, Johannes; Steinert, Martin; Vis, Carlijn; Wulvik, Andreas
Author: Hua, Min; Huang, Shan; Childs, Peter
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: 1: Imperial College of London, United Kingdom; 2: Tongji University, China
Section: Design for Sustainability
Page(s): 186-195
ISBN: 978-1-904670-80-3


Sustainable consumption patterns are one of the key driving forces to achieve sustainable development. However, much of the existing design research in this sector is still based on the current production and consumption system with its inherent linear processes, often causing a huge waste of resources and energy, and pollutants at the same time. To improve this situation, we conducted a research project for a Nordic family in Iceland from a Systemic Design (SD) perspective. The objective of this project is to introduce a new holistic research method into this field and to find a possible solution for Icelandic families to optimize their resource and energy utilization in daily life. This research is mainly based on the theory of the SD method. SD is a design methodology which has its roots in cybernetics and system complexity. It regards the production and consumption processes as its study fields and aims to eliminate the waste by transforming the current linear system into a systemic one. “SD studies not only the linear process, but also the inputs and outputs involved in each phase to generate added value from what is usually considered as waste.” From this point of view, we redesigned the material and energy flows run in the house and optimized the relationships between its system elements. These programmed changes improved the efficiency of current system and provided many opportunities for design innovation. Examples of the results from the project are included a product design for food preservation and a set of summarized design guidelines for following designers. This project has validated the SD method from the perspective that the output (usually been considered as waste) from one process can be changed into an input for another one, which is just like the way that natural process works. What’s more, with this innovative method, we can create economic benefits and reduce environmental impact at the same time.

Keywords: Household Consumption, Systemic Design, Sustainability, Resources and Energy

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