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6 Principles of Sustainable Design

Updated: Nov 1, 2021


Concept of Sustainable Design


A sustainable design is a combined piece of science and artwork created responsibly and purposefully. According to Jason McLennan (McLennan, 2004), the 6 principles of sustainable design are

  1. the respect for the wisdom of natural systems,

  2. the respect for people,

  3. the respect for place,

  4. the respect for the cycle of life (future),

  5. the respect for energy and natural resources, and

  6. the respect for process.


Sustainable designs incorporate the manifestation of efforts to minimise impact to the environment through renewable resources. Some of the factors that boost the popularity of sustainable designs include depletion of resources leading to diminishing returns and unsustainable investment, waste accumulation etc. Designers who respect sustainable design believe wastes are just resources at the wrong place. They can become highly valuable if sustainable designs appreciate their existence to be utilised in endless innovations and unexplored possibilities.


Every successful design serves a meaningful purpose. This purpose needs to be improved and eventually disrupted over time, just as the saying by Albert Einstein goes: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. Designs that lack sustainability concepts in the past need a retrofit for the future. Otherwise, they tend to trade a smaller but more imminent risk for a potentially more harmful risks afterward. With such, solutions would never catch up to resolve problems for the well beings of mankind, without inviting another.





“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”







Back in 2018, Elon Musk twitted: “About half my money is intended to help problems on Earth, and half to help establish a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth gets hit by a meteor like the dinosaurs or WW3 happens and we destroy ourselves.” This post represents the vision of one of the most ingenious men marking a perfect exemplary for dedication and devotion toward sustainable design. Now, it is not far-fetch that this man is mandated to bring well-beings for all mankind for the next seven generations – perhaps much more.



6 Principles of Sustainable Design


The biomimicry principle respects the wisdom of natural systems. The principle treats nature as a functional model worth learning from, and adapted to. Every function of the nature is form-fit to a perfection that even mankind – the number 1 intelligent being on the planet, can only be intrigued about. This level of perfection is not even questionable by the world’s number 1 influential man since the history of mankind, Isaac Newton, who could not believe this formation was created on its own and out of chaos. However, scientists tend to believe that this perfection is a result of evolutions after evolutions of natural selections where systems or organisms that are better fit have survived, while those that are not becomes eliminated and substituted.

This means that the world was indeed a chaos in the beginning some 4.54 billion years ago. Form-fit adaptations such as the natural selection process takes place over the course of billions of years and the unfit have eventually been eliminated, until a perfection is achieved. The nature operates in endless cycles backed by the laws of conservation of matter – water cycle, carbon and oxygen cycle, nitrogen cycle and phosphorous cycle are some of the main cycles that the nature revolves around. Apart from natural selection, cycles of life and forms, and perfect form-fit-functions, some other wonders of natures’ models include diversification, rewards of cooperation, abundances and balances, etc.


“Nature does nothing uselessly”. Nature inspired a lot of man-made creations through the biomimicry principle. The term biomimicry literally means the act of mimicking the nature’s model. For instance, Velcro is a carbon copy of how seeds stick to animal hair for pollination. Kevlar in bullet-proof vests is inspired by spider silk.