An argument is developed for a new framework for design, to assist in overcoming barriers to the implementation of environmentally responsible solutions for building design. Though there exist the technical solutions to move towards more environmentally benign building practices, the vast majority of building designers do not employ these solutions in their designs.
The research first identifies some problems to be overcome in order to improve the implementation of environmentally responsible design solutions. These problems are: the complexity and value conflict presented by environmental issues; the inability of designers to effectively pre-structure design problems in terms of environmental issues; the difficulty designers face in making design decisions regarding environmental issues; the ineffectiveness of existing tools at providing assistance with these problems, and the lack of ecological grounding of existing tools and of design thinking in general.
The search for solutions to these problems guides the direction of the research. Three streams of investigation are conducted, making up the first three parts of the thesis. The first stream is an investigation of design methods resulting in the recommendation of ways to provide assistance to the designer. A range of existing environmental assessment tools are reviewed in the light of these recommendations and their suitability, as providers of design assistance, is evaluated.
The second stream is an investigation of the potential for ecological theory to inform design thinking and then, hence, to inform the development of building environmental assessment tools. Seven principles for ecological design are developed and these shape further recommendations for means of providing assistance to designers.
The third stream documents the testing of some of the recommendations, from theory, in practice. A series of case studies have been conducted in which two interventions have been made into the design process. The first intervention is the front-loading of the design process with environmental considerations by implementing an Environmental Brief. The second intervention is the introduction of life cycle thinking into the design process.
The results from these three streams of investigation inform the development of a new model for building environmental assessment that provides assistance during the design process. The new model is a framework for the design process within which various components fulfil a series of interrelated tasks aimed at solving the problems that currently lead to poor implementation of environmental design strategies.
The implementation of recommendations based on the seven principles for ecological design produce a new paradigm for environmental assessment of buildings. In particular the application of the building life cycle, in the form of an organisational structure for the framework, provides a means of visualising and mapping the relationships between the building and the environment. This helps the designer to better understand these relationships and therefore be able to better deal with their complexity and the conflicts arising between various competing environmental issues.
The building life cycle, provides an overarching structure within which any environmental issues may be considered. This provides great flexibility; for consideration of unique project parameters; for the inclusion of different, existing tools within the new framework; and for the future evolution of the framework and the issues that it covers.
The new framework directs emphasis toward the early stages of the design process though the environmental briefing process. The briefing process assists with the setting of priorities for the client and design team, which in turn lead to the setting of design problems that are more likely to contain environmental criteria. The most beneficial aspect of this is found to be the improved pre-structuring of design problems over time as experience of previous projects is utilised when considering new ones. This highlights an important role for the framework as a record of the design process. This record can be used as a reference throughout the design of the building under consideration at the time, and for reference during the design of future projects.