Post-petroleum Design: Practices and Principles

Apr 06, 2015

By interviewing over 40 industrial designers and architects practicing post-petroleum design, the author found that significant reductions in petrochemical use often begin with design.

Qualitative analysis of the design processes and their lifecycle repercussions as revealed in the interviews exposed six recurring practices characterizing post-petroleum design: the use of renewable resources, recyclable materials, non-toxic materials, low-energy manufacturing and distribution processes, low-carbon manufacturing and distribution processes, and local artisanry. These six practices often appeared to be manifestations of five post-petroleum design principles: energy flows, cycles, resource balancing, resilience, and interdependence.

The analysis of interviews with architects reveals specific principles and practices for reducing petrochemical use in architecture. The analysis of interviews with the designers and manufacturers of post-petroleum products and materials opens new approaches to green building.

This study also addresses obstacles to post-petroleum design, including environmental, social, economic and design challenges. It includes a look forward to emerging post-petroleum practices such as landfill mining, industrial recycling, and the increasing use of nanomaterials and biomaterials.

George Elvin (Ball State University)
Presented at: 
ARCC 2015 Conference – The FUTURE of Architectural Research (Chicago, IL)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC)
University of Massachusetts Amherst

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