Designlife-cycle.com is a work-in-progress project by design undergraduate students at the University of California Department of Design. Each of these entries is a group project undertaken by students in DES 40A: Energy, Materials and Design Across Time, a required design history course for the design major. The class is designed and taught by Professor Christina Cogdell, who can be reached at email@example.com The website is still under construction, and as the class is repeated each year, the contributions will grow.
Designers and consumers should have quick access to full information about the full life-cycle and embedded energy of common design materials and products. Without having this information at our fingertips, efforts toward sustainability are seriously hampered, if not an outright sham. What are the things we use every day made of? Where do the materials that make it up come from, and what steps do they undergo in their processing to become the things we use? How are they disassembled and recycled, and where do the materials go after use? How much energy is involved in this process at every step of the way, not just when we plug something into the wall to charge it?
Each of these projects has been eye-opening, showing us the extent of globalization, extraction, manufacture, wastes, which are usually HIDDEN entities that we don't consider or see. Part of the assignment is to write about what cannot be found, because many corporations have a vested interest in preventing designers and consumers from knowing the nitty-gritty details of production, waste, pollution, labor, outsourcing, etc. Students can use company websites and information as sources, but they must think critically about them, gauging claims against information they (try to) find in academic journal articles discussing the processing, manufacture, labor, pollution, etc. involved in the life cycle of the material or product.
Much of this information is hard to find. That is the student's first task. Then as individuals and groups they also have to absorb information, think critically, and write about what they learn. They also must collaborate and delegate among their group members -- usually groups of three students, one covering raw materials, another focusing on embedded energy, and the third examining the waste and pollution and outputs of the full life cycle. The papers included here are student work, and we welcome input from readers who are knowledgeable about any of these topics to make corrections, additions, suggestions, etc. Please use the contact link to let us know your ideas.