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Eco Design

September 7, 2009

On site at UAP last week, I again had the pleasure of sitting in on one of their Eco Design workshops, facilitated by their Sustainability Manager.

Any number of online definitions point to Eco Design (also known as Sustainable Design) as being:

  • The philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment and services to comply with the principles of economic, social and ecological sustainability
  • An approach to the design of a product with special consideration for the environmental impacts of the product during its whole life-cycle
  • A strategic design management process that is concerned with minimising the impact of the life-cycle of products and services

We previously discussed some of the Principles of Eco Design including:

  • Low-impact materials
  • Energy efficiency
  • Quality and durability
  • Design for reuse and recycling
  • Design impact measures for total carbon footprint and life-cycle assessment
  • Biomimicry
  • Service substitution
  • Renewability
  • Healthy buildings

By examining a range of projects as case studies we looked at how they incorporate and combine these principles to create works with a lower or positive environmental impact.

Of those projects, the one that stood tall in my mind was Catalyst by the environmental art duo Dalziel + Scullion. From their website:

Catalyst is a permanent work sited in the cultural quarter of Dundee in Scotland… taking the form of a draped life-sized car that has been cast in special catalytic cement. This is a new type of concrete material that performs a strange alchemy, hidden within its make-up is a catalytic material (nano-crystalline grade of titanium dioxide) that reacts with light to trigger the molecules of air borne pollutants, such as nitric oxides, carbon monoxide and sulphur monoxide to break apart. Daylight initiates a reaction where the active concrete surface converts harmful nitrogen
oxides into harmless nitrate this in turn reacts with the calcium hydroxide of the concrete surface and drains off with the next rainfall into soils where plants can use it. This is the first time this material has been used in the UK. The artwork was commissioned by Dundee City Council and a Scottish Arts Council
Creative Scotland Award funded all the research and early trials with the material. More information on

This project shows how new material developments can have positive impacts on our environment and how artists and designers are beginning to shift the boundaries of ‘the expected’ and what is possible in design development.

It really is about ‘thinking outside the norm’…

…Looking at sculptures that can power themselves through wind and solar energy, but more than that, sculptures that can create power and feed it back into the main grid to power our cities.

…And using permeable surfaces instead of impermeable ones so that rainwater can be used for plants in the urban environment and runoff can divert into the water table, rather than down stormwater drains.

It’s about a new way of thinking that sustains the world we live in and rather than taking, we give something valuable back, which in turn will help continue to sustain us.

UAP has developed a comprehensive Art Strategy for the new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Once complete, KAUST will span approximately 36 square kilometres inclusive of a state of the art campus with four colleges, one large commercial centre, residential and student accommodation, large open spaces, a signature golf course and numerous mosques.

UAP has curated an art program consisting of 15 artists from across the globe, all of whom have drawn reference from the sites local ecology, Islamic history and science and technology, includingDalziel + Scullion (see bottom image).

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