Life-Cycle Design

The design of sustainable buildings has long focused on reducing energy needs during the operational phase, largely disregarding energy and material consumption as well as emissions associated with the construction, maintenance, re-use, and demolition. Newly designed buildings can operate increasingly efficiently, and the focus of sustainable design is beginning to shifts towards the lifecycle evaluation and thoughtful deployment of building materials themselves. The construction of buildings and infrastructure consumes vast amounts of materials, with serious ecological and climactic consequences resulting both from the production side as well as from landfilling demolition debris. With the ongoing population growth and shrinking natural resources these problems are expected to be exacerbated. While the design and assessment of building products from recycled materials remains poorly understood some products have successfully employed and marketed recycled materials. Designing building products from the recycling stream, in fact, may open entrepreneurial avenues when creating value from trash using materials that would otherwise be disposed of at significant cost.

The limited enrollment seminar presents the broader issues of lifecycle design and material flows, including analysis, visualization and design issues, but also questions of economics. Of particular interest will be a discussion on scale aspects that range from the material level, to products, assemblies, buildings and finally to the urban scale. The topics are presented through lectures and case studies, as well as through student research and seminar presentations. Selected readings will complement the material presented during class.

In the first part of the course, students will work individually and focus on understanding limitations and opportunities for lifecyle design through short precedent studies. At least one local field trip will expose the group to the realities of recycling and reuse. During the second part of the course, small student groups will pursue individual research studies that can range from analytical research, primarily digital redesign studies to hands-on design explorations using the resources of the GSD FabLab such as 3D scanners and robotic manipulators. During this part of the course we will integrate a discussion on research methods into the weekly class meetings.

The final review will allow all groups to present their work, scholarly, speculative, or prototypical. Everybody is expected to submit a paper on the course project.