Strategies for developing sustainable design practice for students and SME professionals

de Eyto, A., Mc Mahon, M., Hadfield, M. and Hutchings, M. (2008) Strategies for developing sustainable design practice for students and SME professionals. pp. 331-342. ISSN 03043797


Designers and engineers seem finally to be awakening to the challenge that sustainable development has given. Educators and students alike are keenly aware of the need to become more effective in the training and practice of their specific disciplines with respect to sustainability. \noindent In the past four years since this research has developed, there has been a marked change in the mass market appeal for sustainable products and services. Implementation of sustainable design practice from both recent graduates and also innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) at a local level is slow. One would assume that the consumer drive would push a change in design practice but perhaps the complexities of sustainable design along with the lack of experience in the field are providing barriers to designers and marketers alike. In addition the SME sector alone makes up the bulk of industry within the European Union (EU) varying in some countries from 80-95% of the total numbers of companies (Tukker et al. 2000). These industries by their nature find it difficult to dedicate expertise solely to sustainable development issues. The strategy outlined in this paper intended to introduce concepts of sustainable design thinking and practice to both SMEs and undergraduate students. \noindent This current and ongoing research qualitatively assesses appropriate models for educating for sustainable design thinking with SME employees and undergraduate design students. The sample groups include Industrial Design and Product Design undergraduate students in Ireland at the Institute of Technology, Carlow (IT Carlow), The University of Limerick (UL) and a sample of SMEs in the South East of Ireland, with broad national participation from other students of design and professionals from industry. Current levels of understanding of students and SME professionals of key environmental and social issues are measured. Strategies and Mechanisms for improvement of practice in manufacturing and design from a sustainable development perspective are discussed. Examples of the learning and teaching methods considered include: Studio orientated design project based learning modules with specific sustainability briefs being applied. Workshop based exercises within the 'Winnovate initiative' (An initiative aimed at improving the New Product Development (NPD) of SMEs in the South East of Ireland and West Wales) (Winnovate 2006). Joint Day long Seminar formats for students and professionals, mixing professionals and students in both workshop and lecture environments (Reform 2005, 2006, 2007). [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]; Copyright of European Journal of Engineering Education is the property of Taylor & Francis Ltd and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)

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