CAT DESIGN BRIEFS

CAT 1: BIODEGRADABLE WASTE

PRODUCT DESIGN UK

GENERIC DESIGN CONTEXT
There is increasing concern about the impact of putting biodegradable waste into landfill sites, mainly because of the methane it then gives off. Design a way of dealing with biodegradable waste in a way that does not cause pollution and has a useful product.

SPECIFIC DESIGN BRIEF Either A: Design and make a compost bin suitable for disposing of bio-degradable waste produced in your school,

Or B: Design and make a compost bin suitable for disposing of bio-degradable waste produced in the home.

FURTHER INFORMATION
Click here for ‘Biodegradable waste’ which gives some sources of information.

CLIENT DETAILS
Your first point of contact will be Ann MacGarry at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Contact by email [email protected] - or by phone 01654 705963.

SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES
Households in England and Wales produce 29.3 million tonnes of refuse every year and this is increasing by 3 per cent a year. 82 per cent of this goes into landfill sites (9 per cent is recycled and 8 per cent has energy recovered from it). The organic material in this refuse is 38per cent. When this organic material goes into a landfill site:
• it decomposes anaerobically and produces methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas (20 times worse than CO2 per unit of gas).
• It is lost to the nutrient and fibre cycle.
• It takes up space in landfill.
• It costs us all money through our Council Tax, in paying for the whole process of disposal in landfill.

INTERESTED? WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
Click on the ‘Biodegradable waste background information on the SDA.

CAT 2: MOVING WATER

PRODUCT DESIGN UK

GENERIC DESIGN CONTEXT
Moving water from one place to another, particularly lifting it, has been an engineering challenge for millennia and very many different methods have been used to do this. Design and make a system for moving water for a situation of your choice.

SPECIFIC DESIGN BRIEF
There is an ever-growing interest in gardening and many people are building ponds in which they want to have some sort of moving water feature. There are issues of energy and water consumption involved. Design and make a system that will provide moving water in a low-impact and low-cost way.

FURTHER INFORMATION
Click on the ‘Moving water’ link which gives some sources of information.

CLIENT DETAILS
Your first point of contact will be Ann MacGarry at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Contact by email on ann.macgar[email protected] or by phone 01654 705963.

SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES
• A garden pond adds to biodiversity in your local environment. Species are under threat across Europe, partly because of intensive farming, and therefore gardens have become more important as habitats for wildlife when they are organic.
• Ponds provide habitats for frogs and toads which are useful garden predators.
• If people develop their gardens as pleasant places to spend their time, they will be less inclined to drive to other places for their leisure.
• Pumps powered by solar (photovoltaic) cells are very popular but expensive and fairly energy intensive to make.

INTERESTED? WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
Click on ‘Moving water’ background information for further reference material and website links.


CAT 3: FOOD

FOOD TECHNOLOGY UK

GENERIC DESIGN CONTEXT
The food we eat has a huge effect on the environment. In the UK it represents about a third of our total impact on the planet, as measured by the ecological footprint. Much of that impact is caused by the processing, packaging and transporting of the food. Design one or more food items which will have a low impact on the planet, or a positive impact of some sort.

SPECIFIC DESIGN BRIEF
School dinners often include a lot of processed and ‘quick’ foods, because of the pressures of cost, convenience and producing things that pupils will eat. Design a meal or menu for school dinners that is low impact, interesting and healthy.

FURTHER INFORMATION
Click on ‘Food and sustainability’ which gives sources of information.

CLIENT DETAILS
Your first point of contact will be Ann MacGarry at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Contact by email, [email protected], or by phone, 01654 705963.

SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES
• The ecological footprint of the food we eat in the UK represents about a third of our impact on the planet. Much of this could be reduced by cutting down on processing and packaging and using locally produced foods.
• Many of the food products we eat have been produced by agricultural workers earning very low wages in the South. In some cases child labour is used. Fair trade products guarantee that the producers have been paid a decent wage.
• Health is a sustainability issue. There are many ways in which the average diet makes people less healthy.

INTERESTED? WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
Click on ‘Food and sustainability’ for further information and website links.

CAT 4: SOLAR WATER HEATING

PRODUCT DESIGN UK

GENERIC DESIGN CONTEXT
The potential for using solar water heating systems in Britain is enormous, with 40,000+ already in use in homes. Design and make a solar water heating system for a context of your choice.

SPECIFIC DESIGN BRIEF
Either A: Design and make or model a solar water heating system suitable for use in a home similar to your own, or

B: Design and make or model a solar water heating system for use when camping.

FURTHER INFORMATION
Click on “Solar Water Heating” which gives background information.

SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES
• The energy source used to heat most hot water used in Britain is a fossil fuel. Burning fossil fuels adds to climate change and air pollution. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has stated that “The government should now adopt a strategy which puts the UK on a path to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by some 60per cent from current levels by about 2050”.
• Heating water accounts for about 22 per cent of energy used in homes in Britain (not including central heating).
• On average commercial solar water heating systems produce about 50 per cent of the hot water needs of a home over the course of a year.

INTERESTED? WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
Click on ‘Solar Water Heating’ for further reference material and website links.


CAT 5: USING TIMBER SUSTAINABLY

PRODUCT DESIGN UK

GENERIC DESIGN CONTEXT
When chosen and used with care, timber can be a very low impact material to use for furniture. Design and make a piece of furniture that uses timber in a sustainable way.

SPECIFIC DESIGN BRIEF
Design and make a piece of furniture using locally grown timber from a source where replanting has happened or where a tree was not cut down.

FURTHER INFORMATION
Click on ‘Sustainable timber’ which gives background information.

SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES
• The extraction of tropical hardwoods is frequently extremely damaging to the environment. To fell one mahogany tree loggers fell a considerable area of other timber that is left to rot. Deforestation is adding to problems of climate change as forested areas are ‘carbon sinks’, which have absorbed carbon dioxide. In many cases when trees are felled they are not replaced.
• Importing timber produces carbon dioxide through the energy used in transport.
• Composite boards make use of small sections of timber but often contain damaging substances in their adhesives.
• When trees are felled and replaced by young trees the carbon cycle can continue.
• Using a certain amount of timber creates a market for it and therefore a value in maintaining woodland.
• A monoculture of conifer trees can be very damaging to the local environment. Planting mixed forestry of indigenous species creates habitats for wildlife and very pleasant woodland for leisure pursuits.

INTERESTED? WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
Click on ‘Sustainable timber’ for further reference material and website links.


CAT 6: ECOLOGICAL HOUSING

PRODUCT DESIGN UK

GENERIC DESIGN CONTEXT
A few committed designers and builders are gradually extending knowledge and practice in energy efficient, ecological methods of construction. Design and make a model of an energy efficient, pre-fabricated house or alternative building, or a component for such a building. It should use ecological materials and renewable energy systems, and should be affordable and appropriate for use in the UK.

SPECIFIC DESIGN BRIEF A: Product Design: Sunlight maximising
A significant percentage of energy used in buildings is that used to light the spaces. Energy efficient design tries to minimise this by incorporating high levels of daylighting, with specific design to focus the daylight where it is most needed, i.e. desk areas, cooking surfaces, reading, workshops. Design and make a piece of equipment or a system that will bring and distribute sunlight to an inaccessible part of a building of your choice, e.g. into a basement, or part of a building where no windows are possible.

SPECIFIC DESIGN BRIEF B: Product design: Waste minimisation
Current amounts of waste in the UK, both domestic and industrial, are unsustainable. Identify an industrial, agricultural or domestic waste stream in the UK and design and make a construction method or product for use in an energy efficient house.

SPECIFIC DESIGN BRIEF C: Product Design: Timber frame technology
Building materials made of plants and natural fibres can be produced sustainably more easily than materials made from finite material resources. Design a pre-fabricated timber framed, energy-efficient house for the UK market and climate, based on the use of components and products that are made of plant and natural fibres. Either model the whole house, using scaled-down models of the actual materials, or make up a section of the house on a larger scale.

FURTHER INFORMATION
Click on ‘Ecological Housing’, where you can find further ideas about designing buildings for social and environmental change.

CLIENT DETAILS
You have two possible first points of contact with experts in the field of sustainable buildings. One is Ann MacGarry at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Contact by email, [email protected], or by phone, 01654 705963.
The other is Simmonds Mills, sustainable architects, who can be contacted at [email protected] or telephone 01952-433252.

SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES
• Sustainable building design covers most areas of environmental sustainability - energy, use of renewable materials etc.
• Economic issues include the preservation of traditional skills and jobs.
• Social issues would include health, preservation of local character, encouragement of wildlife.

INTERESTED? WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?
Click on ‘Ecological Housing’ for further reference information and useful website links.




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