DS 123: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2023)

Year: 2023
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Soares, Susana; Puccinelli, Elisa
Series: E&PDE
Institution: London South Bank University; London South Bank University
Section: Established, alternative and emerging educational paradigms to equip engineers and designers for future challenges
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.82
ISBN: 978-1-912254-19-4


Our material world and consumer habits have a significant negative impact in the environment. Across its life cycle the average product results in carbon emissions of 6.3 times its own weight (1). Designers are starting to experiment and develop biomaterials from waste or generate renewable growable materials rather than extracting and mining. New materials developed from mycelium, bacteria, algae, and cactus help to reduce the environmental impact of single use and to rethink our relationship with convenience and consumption. These materials offer some of the insulating, lightweight, waterproof, and transparent properties of plastic, but are non-toxic and compostable. Moreover, these materials often use bio fabrication techniques, instead of traditional manufacture processes by harnessing biological organisms to design and grow products and clothing. Truly regenerative design considers interconnected dynamics that are people and planet centred with a focus on circular economy and regeneration. Material Futures used biomaterials and bio fabrication to introduce regenerative design principles to second year Product Design students towards a co evolutionary process between humans and natural systems, understanding local context and a living system thinking approach. Students were asked to design a product made entirely of mycelium that considered user needs whilst helping to decarbonise the material world. Design methods such as cone of futures, future backing and the thing of the future were used so students had to consider the micro and macro impact of their proposals. The project was supported by a regenerative design lab through a workshop format in which students had the opportunity to learn mycelium’s bio fabrication processes and properties. The paper includes examples of experiments with mycelium, the methods used to develop concepts and student feedback that illustrates the importance of introducing regenerative design principles to increase ecoliteracy and consequently reduce the environmental impact of product design. 1. Meinrenken, C.J., Chen, D., Esparza, R.A. et al. Carbon emissions embodied in product value chains and the role of Life Cycle Assessment in curbing them. Sci Rep 10, 6184 (2020).

Keywords: regenerative design, bio fabrication, living systems approach, ecoliteracy, future back casting


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