Beyond ecodesign

Yorick Benjamin

I don’t think “ecodesign” goes deep enough – it’s more about optimising the status quo rather than challenging it.

Dr Yorick Benjamin is the Director of Sustainable Design at the Falmouth University. His interest and background is in the pragmatic realisation of sustainable design products and methodologies and he has been active in a wide range of projects both nationally and internationally since 1988. Yorick’s latest work is a collaboration on the design of Sustainable Bus Shelters for Cornwall Council; 50 shelters of different sizes have been digitally manufactured using local companies and are in public use today.

Talking points

There is a need for much more responsibility in terms of product….closing loops, circular economy, don’t downcycle…

Material science has to focus on natural and renewable – almost forgotten since we industrialised

We’re only a small element, but what we can do is to show best practice in terms of using materials wisely, using them for appropriate purposes, and using them in ways that are improving people’s lives in a very obvious way.

Are design ethics and profitability in conflict?

Retrofitting sustainability to an existing design is very hard, almost impossible.

I don’t think you can retrofit at scale, it means changing infrastructure…I prefer to be supporting and growing the pioneers…the new providers.

It doesn’t matter if we get it wrong at the smaller level, so long as we learn and correct.

I want to see us make a difference and the way we do that is to make the physical artefact, get it into market to change people’s opinion and give them examples of best practice – in doing that it is OK that we get it wrong sometimes.

One of the hardest messages to get across is that you are buying product longevity…it is difficult to get that across when people’s profit horizon is a year or less.

A broader way of considering design: students don’t start with designing a tap, they start with water.

(Motivation?) Doing the right thing, making designers who are competent, happy, enjoy their work, make a living, but do the right thing and are actually ambassadors for sustainable design and the values that underpin that.

(Activist?) No…I’m hesitating, when I was younger I very much was an activist…we founded Green Drinks…I see myself as an enabler, a facilitator, but also having the vision I hope – which is to see the bigger picture, which is how we can make this gear up, get sustainable products out there.

There’s no point doing sustainable design if you can’t get products out there, you have to actually make something.

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Author: Samuel Mann

An Associate Professor with a background in both IT and land management, Sam has developed applied IT for regional government, crown research institutes and large organisations. He has taught computing since 1994, at Otago Polytechnic Information Technology since 1997, including five years as Head of Department. Sam has published over 150 conference and journal papers in the fields of augmented experiences; sustainability; and computer education. Sam is responsible for the development of Education for Sustainability at Otago Polytechnic where we are committed to every graduate thinking and acting as a sustainable practitioner

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