Design for Dematerialisation: an approach for reducing a building’s embodied environmental flows

  • YEAR
    Skillington, Katie
    Crawford, Robert
    2020 Conference Papers
    Architectural Science, Design and Environment Science, Urban Science
    Conference Papers


The building sector must rapidly adopt measures to reduce its significant contribution to global environmental degradation. However, recent efforts in pursuing improved environmental outcomes in the building sector have disproportionately focused on building operation, overlooking the increasingly significant construction-related life cycle stages. The environmental effects associated with these life cycle stages are often locked-in during the design of a building. As such, design stakeholders must have an appreciation of design approaches that affect a buildings’ construction-related or embodied environmental flows. Design for Dematerialisation (DfD) is one such approach, however from the perspective of the building sector it is not well understood. Informed by research from allied disciplines, this study addresses this gap and ascertains that DfD is a design approach that targets reduced material and resource inputs whilst pursuing optimal functionality/performance. Implemented in early design decision making, DfD requires rethinking the whole building design from a life cycle perspective, questioning necessity, and testing alternatives to satisfy user need. Drivers and barriers affecting adoption are discussed, and the paper concludes with recommendations to further develop DfD research and practice – namely the need to empirically assess built examples of the approach to better support its implementation.

Keywords: Design for dematerialisation; embodied flows; design approaches; life cycle assessment.


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