Design Ecologies

Design ecologies aims to understand the contexts and relationships in landscapes of design and innovation - the materials, users, outcomes and organizations at different spatial and temporal scales. The Design group has a long tradition of exploring sustainability as a context for design and innovation and we continue to explore these transitions to a particular future. A broad range of topics form the focus of academic interest and include, but are not limited to: 

-  design and development of sustainable products, services and systems

-  design and diffusion of sustainable waste management systems

-  sustainable infrastructures transitions

-  strategic design and leadership for resilient futures

-  design and diffusion of low-carbon transport systems

-  sustainable design education

Our research aims to generate useful insights for a variety of key actors such as professional designers, industry, educationalists, local and national public policy makers and as such we seek to identify and foster new partnerships through our research.


Contact Emma Dewberry for general enquiries


SusTEACH: Sustainability Tools for the Environmental Appraisal of the Carbon impacts of HE Teaching Models using ICTs

With funding under the JISC Greening ICT Programme, the SusTEACH project conducted research on sustainable higher education teaching and learning, and examined the transformative impact of ICTs on HE teaching models and assessed their carbon-based environmental and life-time impacts.

SHOCK (not) Horror: mediating radical transformations in infrastructure provision

 Shocks affect perceptions and visibility of infrastructure: “Shocks disrupt systems and make visible the different institutional, material, social and political relations that sustain them.” (Graham S, ed. Disrupted Cities: When Infrastructure Fails. New York: Routledge, 2010.)

Shocks provide the opportunity to consider 'less' - in terms of both supply (delivering services with less assets) and demand (opportunities for behavioural change and re-evaluating the provision of infrastructure)

Domestic heat pump field trial

Heat pumps for heating buildings and providing domestic hot water are recognized as a key technology to meet carbon reduction and renewable energy targets. A field trial of heat pumps conducted by the Energy Saving Trust (EST) in partnership with the Open University found that UK domestic heat pumps performed less efficiently than those in Germany and Switzerland. This research funded by Carbon Connections and the EST investigated the experiences and satisfaction of heat pump users in the field trial and the influence of technical and user factors on system efficiency. It made recommendations for low carbon energy policies and the design and market adoption of heat pumps.

Project Falcon Smart Grids

Exploring engagement with smart grid technologies and systems and new patterns of electricity demand and local generation.

ELVIS - The Milton Keynes Electric Light Vehicle InfraStructure project

This project oversees the deployment of EV charging infrastructure in accordance with MK's commitments to the Plugged-in Places and Joined Cities programmes. It is part of the wider Milton Keynes Low Carbon Living programme intended to help prepare Milton Keynes for the energy and environmental challenges of the next 40 years. ELVIS was an initiative born out of the commitment of the business sector, national and local policymakers and our local universities. ELVIS partners are also providing public engagement, education and skill development activities related to low carbon transport.

Attitudes to the use of organic resources on land

With funding from Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra) Waste and Resources Evidence Programme this project researched attitudes and perceptions in the UK towards the spreading of organic waste-derived resources on land. The research brought together for the first time stakeholders from all parts of the organic resources use cycle. The outcomes developed understanding of stakeholders' main perceptions and concerns, identified key issues, drivers and barriers, and provided an evidence base for informing policy and practice.

Unlocking the potential of community composting

With funding from Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra) Waste and Resources Evidence Programme this research worked with community composting groups and their stakeholders and identified key features of successful schemes, evaluated social and environmental impacts and assessed transferability. 

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