The current thread on sustainability initiatives at universities and
design schools caught my eye. It seems to me that more is taking
place than may be visible. There are three reasons for this.
First, we don't all seem to know about what others are doing -- or
what they have achieved.
Second, many design programs addressing sustainability take place in
schools and faculties of engineering, informatics, computing, or even
medicine. For example, Eli Blevis works at a School of Informatics,
while University of Melbourne's VEIL (Victorian Eco-Innovation Lab)
project is located within the Australian Centre for Science,
Innovation and Society.
Third, many projects are inter-disciplinary. They take place
"outside" design schools and programs altogether, yet we participate
as full partners with other actors.
One useful innovation would surely be an inventory that allows us to
find out what is going on, where, and how.
Two broad initiatives deserve a note.
One is the Changing the Change conference
Ezio Manzini, Jorge Frascara, and others have structured a conference
around a few crucial factors. The key recognition is that most of us
know the problems that we face -- but we have not found a way to
generate the social and cultural change we need if we are to address
these problems. Changing the Change is about HOW we change as well as
about WHAT we need to do.
What I find inspiring and realistic about Changing the Change is the
understanding that we must reshape our cultures and ourselves to
reshape our future. To bring change about, we must change the way we
change. A visit to the web site will interest anyone concerned with
The other key initiative is The Designers Accord.
This program allows participating organizations to make a real
contribution by engaging in clear, direct actions for local
improvement that add up to large-scale social change. The Accord is
an initiative developed by Valerie Casey of IDEO to encourage design
firms and designers in a simple, actionable sustainability program by
educating clients, improving design processes, reducing wasteful
resource use, and eliminating harmful outputs.
Many design firms -- and now, manufacturers -- have adopted the
Accord. When I became dean at Swinburne Design, we also adopted The
Designers Accord. When we did, I was startled to learn that Swinburne
Design is the first design school in the world to adopt the accord,
and the first organization of any kind in Australia to do so. We are
now working to enroll others in this important project. Again, this
site is worth a visit.
Before closing, I'll share what we are doing at Swinburne Design to
become more sustainable and what we are doing to promote
sustainability. In defining out strategic goals for the years leading
up to 2015, we chose three key issues as a frame of reference:
sustainability, research, and globalization. (Like it or not,
globalization is a frame -- the HOW of how we globalize is what makes
Unlike our colleagues in Brisbane, we do not have a specific master's
program. Nevertheless, we continually develop units on
sustainability, embedding them in the curriculum. Industrial Design,
Interior Design, and Product Design incorporate sustainability in
design studios, using sustainable design methods such as life cycle
assessment. We also offer undergraduate and postgraduate units on
systems and service design for social, economic, and environmental
sustainability as a university-wide elective.
Over the next year, we expect to make several senior appointments
focusing on different aspects of sustainability. One area where our
new staff will play a key role is in helping us to reshape our
master's degree programs. As we do, you can expect to see units and
perhaps a complete program. As dean, I am concerned with fundamental
change for long-term improvement, so this means that I work with
colleagues and staff to build things carefully and durably. One
aspect of sustainability is ensuring that the programs we are
themselves serious and sustainable, and I want to ensure that what we
build lasts. I am fortunate to have the full support of the entire
university in this -- the Chancellery and my fellow deans are all
working together with us on these issues. We will succeed, not
simply as a design faculty, but as a university.
Swinburne Design actively supports other university programs. This
includes participating in The National Centre for Sustainability and
playing a role in Swinburne University's participation in the
Sustainability Covenant of the Victoria Environmental Protection
Agency. Swinburne is committed to learning, teaching, and research
for sustainability while building a sustainable workplace.
We have one important challenge that is both a great opportunity and
a serious responsibility. We are planning a new building for our
urban campus. We need a building that meets a complex range of needs
to function as a major urban campus center while working sustainably
and contributing to a better neighborhood. We have been bench-marking
excellent design schools to see what the best have done in late 20th
century buildings. Professor Roger Simpson of our faculty is working
with experts from around the world to learn what a 21st century
design faculty building should be. It will take us half a decade to
get it built, and when we do, we want to build it well.
One thing we have learned in our bench-mark studies it is that many
design schools and universities are concerned with these issues, in
curriculum, in studio work, in research, and in how they do the job
of running a school. I think an serious inventory would reveal many
good programs in place and under development around the world.
We're committed to pursuing these issues at every level. We have much
to learn, and we have something to share.
Lars Albinsson added a nice tag to his note, a quote from Alan Kay:
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
I'm happy to add that these thoughts are not simply my ideas. They
are a statement of policy for Swinburne Design, and they reflect a
comprehensive commitment to sustainability at Swinburne University of
Technology. We're doing our share to invent the future, and I think
that's true of others here.
Dean, Swinburne Design
Swinburne University of Technology
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