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The new Earthscan Series on Sustainable Design, by Steffen Lehmann

We are pleased to present the second Earthscan from Routledge blog post: written by Steffen Lehmann, series editor of the new Earthscan Series on Sustainable Design.

With a new entry every fortnight, blog posts written by various Earthscan from Routledge authors will be displayed both on the Routledge website and on our Facebook page here. Each post within Facebook will be open to comments so please feel free to join in with the conversation!

View all Routledge Sustainability Blog articles.

The new Earthscan Series on Sustainable Design
BY STEFFEN LEHMANN, series editor of the new Earthscan Series on Sustainable Design.


I am pleased to introduce the new Earthscan Series on Sustainable Design, which I am editing. The first two titles are Designing for Zero Waste (2012) and Motivating Change (upcoming in 2013), both of which I have co-edited with Dr Robert Crocker. The next volume will be Low Carbon Cities (currently in production).

All books in this series are authored and edited by leading academics and practitioners in the field of sustainable design. Although there has been an immense amount of theory- and technology-focused writing published on the topic of sustainable design, many of these books have failed to introduce readers to the wider challenge of what the rethinking of design, production, and operation and re-use/recycling of all products, buildings and cities really means. Sustainability is not a passing fashion, and people are constantly searching for more reliable information and relevant ideas, and thinking of emerging systems in this area.

The Earthscan series aims to develop a theoretical framework for how different theories of sustainable design might engage with the practice of architects, designers, urban planners and related professions. The books equip readers with the tools for realizing the full potential of the good intentions of sustainable design and offer a novel alignment of interdisciplinary perspectives on the problems of global consumerism and strategies to avoid resource waste.

The books in this series will be essential reading for professionals and students, researchers and experts, industry and government agencies, and are a highly useful addition to the literature, focusing on key topics in sustainable design, urban development and city transformation.

One of the issues explored is the question: how can we move towards environmentally sustainable design and reduced consumption quickly enough? There have been dire warnings about the implications of global climate change and a strain on the full range of resources from fuel to food. But there is neither regulations nor political will to make the changes to meet the growing challenges for urban communities for the next 20 years and beyond.

How much longer can we sustain the high-consumption lifestyle we are used to? To get the full picture on consumerism and over-consumption, we need to understand interconnected global systems of production and consumption. We hope to embed notions of sustainable consumption with architects, designers and urban planners, who all face different challenges depending on where they are in the world.

Choosing sustainable building materials and systems goes beyond considering durability. We need to take lifecycle analysis and supply chain into account, and specify the most appropriate materials for a project – the least polluting, most easily recyclable, most energy efficient (least embodied energy) – from sustainable sources. We need to refocus on avoiding waste creation in the first place and rethink the way we design and construct products, buildings and cities to facilitate re-use and disassembly at their end of life.

This change of focus makes the concept of zero waste both powerful and controversial. From a purely economic point of view, producing waste is unproductive. But reversing the existing, wasteful business system and manufacturing practices is not a fast, easy or cheap process. If we can begin at the beginning and design waste out of the picture, we can recover not only the final product, but also the energy, materials and time embodied in the product or building.

The zero waste ethos is a big call – radical in its ramifications – and it requires more than a top-down, government-imposed approach. To be successful, zero waste needs to be embraced and implemented by citizens, community groups, business and industry. It is already technologically possible to build a zero-waste and zero-carbon-emission city.

The question is: are we willing to transform from consumers into citizens?


Professor Steffen Lehmann, PhD, is the series editor of the Earthscan Series on Sustainable Design and an internationally highly respected architect, urbanist and scholar. Steffen is currently professor of Sustainable Design at the University of South Australia, where he is also director of the Zero Waste Centre for Sustainable Design and Behaviour and director of the China−Australia Centre for Sustainable Urban Development. See more on Steffen’s work at: slab.com.au.


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