It was a great honor to be part of this great initiative and participate as a speaker in one of the sessions of the #oceanliteracy training for designers, architects, and urban planners from UNESCO Ocean. This course provided architects, urban planners, marine planners, and designers with an overview of the importance of the ocean and how to consider it in the design process to operate within planetary boundaries. Thanks, UNESCO/IOC Project Office for IODE for the invitation.
My session aimed to create awareness of the responsibility and ability of designers, architects and urban planners to build a more sustainable future, incorporating eco-design principles, a lifecycle approach and different types of design interventions for the oceans and marine ecosystems into the design process.
As designers, architects and urban planners, we need to be aware that everything we produce to be used and consumed have multiple environmental impacts. The different impacts can vary from sector to sector, or even from one product to the other, for instance we can some products that have a higher impact on climate change, others on water, or land used, or marine acidification, or use of fossil resources.
Having a deep and practical understanding of this is key, because as humanity we need to operate within planetary boundaries to ensure we can survive, develop and thrive as humanity, because how we produce and consume it does, and it will determine our future of humankind.
The Planetary boundaries, is a framework that defines 9 different environmental properties on earth and their safety thresholds in which humanity can survive. Crossing these boundaries increases the risk of generating large-scale and/or irreversible environmental changes. The 9 boundaries are linked to:
Quality of the Stratospheric ozone layer,
Loss of biodiversity and species extinctions,
Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities,
Freshwater quality and consumption,
Land system change that is linked to forests, grasslands, wetlands and other vegetation types have primarily been converted to agricultural land,
Nitrogen and phosphorus flows (mainly used in fertilizers and agricultural systems) that enter into the biosphere and oceans
Atmospheric aerosol loading.
What we need to know and what it is terrifying is that we have surpassed already the safe operating space of many of them.
Companies and designers need to start designing and operating within these boundaries!
To do so, we need to not only solve the actual design need, but also, think how is the intervention going to be produced and consumed. Taking a life cycle approach guarantees that you will design the intervention considering all the different lifecycle stages, from raw material extraction to manufacturing, distribution, use, and end of life. With this approach we can measure the different impacts of the life cycle stages and where are the hotspots and opportunities of improvement.
At this stage it is no surprise to have different environmental impacts on different stages and having to make decisions to choose the best configuration for your intervention to reduce the burden shift across indicators.
This is why it is so important to include a lifecycle approach combined with eco design throughout the design process to identify the real problem and need to satisfy and adjacent environmental challenges, collect the necessary information, ideate multiple concepts with different solutions to the environmental problem to finally develop the best solution with fewer trade-offs, and finally test the actual performance and improve the design.
Designing for the oceans and marine ecosystems means designing solutions that have lower environmental impacts on marine ecosystems, or design interventions that mitigate environmental impacts or ideally design interventions that regenerate our oceans and their ecosystems.