Lifecycle Design

The construction, maintenance and operation of the built environment consume significant resources in a world of rapidly depleting natural reserves. As our ability to design energy efficient buildings increases buildings consume relatively fewer resources through their operation. Consequently, the focus of sustainable design shifts increasingly towards the evaluation and thoughtful deployment of building materials themselves. Instead of using materials from primary resources, future buildings and other elements of the built environment will have to rely increasingly on the use of recycled materials. Issues of industrial ecology are becoming increasingly relevant in the building design process, but design methods, performance evaluation, assessment frameworks and economic models for use of recycled materials in building products remain poorly understood. The research seminar/workshop studies the broader issues of lifecycle design using recycled materials, with a special interest in components for the building envelope. In a workshop format students will be introduced to the fundamentals of lifecycle assessment, product development and prototyping, manufacturing processes, market research and business aspects of product development, as well as design for production, for assembly and for disassembly. Case studies and readings will complement lectures and discussions. Working in small groups, students will develop proposals and prototypes for building components based on recycled materials, and conduct initial studies on lifecycle assessments, design potential, assembly and construction integration. The course will be taught in collaboration with Miniwiz, a Taiwan-based company focused on sustainable product development. A field trip to Taiwan is offered to participating students as an opportunity to study, first hand, local issues of industrial ecology, recycling streams, and sustainable product innovation by visiting relevant sites and meeting stakeholders. A building construction site in Taiwan will serve as the context for newly developed product proposals, with the possibility of actually producing and testing prototypes initially developed during the course. (Participating students will be term billed $300 for international travel. This cost does not include meals and incidentals, such as visas, immunizations, local travel, etc.)