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Design for our Future

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Oversupply today and a Plan B


A view from a room of Standen House
Interior of Standen House

After a trip to Standen House which was designed both interior and externally at the end of 19th century by key architects and designers of the Arts & Crafts movement. William De Morgan , Morris & Co and Arthur Romney Green were three of the main contributors to this fascinating property.


It’s an interesting period where the key people were driven to create items that were hand made locally in response to the over industrialisation of manufacturing and the oversupply which created poor wages.


There are today again similarities where the current industrialisation of manufacturing has moved to China, does this opens the door again for a similar movement or are there are environmental issues to be considered too....

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful - William Morris.

While a major premise of the Arts & Crafts Movement was "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful", I think today we have more to consider.


I was encouraged by my visit to the Copenhagen Design Museum where their current exhibition about the design of the future "The Future is Present" had the following points to make, under the heading "Planet".


"We have lived our lives as if our planet were an inexhaustible resource and, when it had been exhausted, relying on a plan B to help us through. The 20th century was a time of mass production and mass consumption. Firstly the middle class expanded in the Western world. Later, affluence became widespread and, with it, endless consumption. The cost was considerable - indescribably so.


Geologist call our epoch the Anthropocene, or the age of man. This is because, for the first time, geological changes are man-made. ‘But how can we save the world?” This is the question that everyone from children to politicians are asking?


Carbon footprint , CO2 emissions, political consumers, circular economy, social sustainability, biodiversity, and microbiomes have become familiar term in our vocabulary. Designers and architects' experiment with solutions ranging exploring new materials, advanced technologies, and construction methods to rethink new ways of living - perhaps planets in space?


Today we design not only for the welfare of the man, but rather to create well-being for our planet. For how can humans and nature coexist in better balance? How can we all rethink consumption, eating habits and mobility?"

If we consider consumption more closely it is important to understand that with today's global supply chain the carbon footprint of a purchase includes the raw materials used, the manufacturing and the transportation.

If we look at CO2 outputs we find (numbers in million tonnes):

1907

2021

Notes

UK

473

346

43 from cars

China

20

11.472

While the overproduction of CO2 causes numerous issues, we assume we can all do our bit to help.

Planet asking for our help

That is true, but the question is: how do we make those changes when the UK now produces 3% of the levels China now produces?


To help answer this question , points we can consider are:

  1. Does a product I buy have built in obsolescence - I.e can it be reused or repaired;

  2. What CO2 production am I responsible for creating in buying this product. i.e the raw materials, the manufacturing and the transport/supply chain (Amazon alone reported 71 Mt in 2022);

  3. Embodied carbon footprint is the amount of carbon (CO2 or CO2e emission) to produce a material or product. If we can Reuse/Restore/Repair and this is at no new cost to the environment, we are reusing for free a past generations CO2 production rather than creating more.


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