Design for ecosystem function: three ecologically based design interventions to support New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity
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This research project explores opportunities for sustainable design in New Zealand. Recently a new framework for sustainable design was proposed by environmental chemist Michael Braungart and architect William McDonough who suggest that the current paradigm of cradle to grave product development is unable to provide a solution to the world’s current ecological crisis, and a “cradle to cradle” framework is more appropriate. They suggest that their approach, based on examples from nature, ensures that all human activities have a positive ecological footprint, capable of replenishing and regenerating natural systems, as well as guaranteeing that we are able to develop a world that is culturally and ecologically diverse. A group of New Zealand scientists was asked to evaluate the Cradle to Cradle design framework in an attempt to determine the potential of this, or other sustainable approaches, to design New Zealand products. The key findings from these interviews are described and were utilised to propose a new sustainable design framework – “design for ecosystem function”. In design for ecosystem function, biodiversity is placed central to the design decision-making process, alongside human user needs. This framework was then used to help explore the relationship between science and design, while developing three new, innovative and ecologically beneficial products. The three products, or ecological interventions, represent a design response to a range of ecological problems. They include a toy to help children reconnect with nature in urban ecosystems, a trap to assist lizard monitoring and conservation, and a shelter designed to enhance tree survival, and the colonisation of biodiversity in native forest restoration plantings.