Sustainability and Design Ethics

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Sustainability and Design Ethics
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Sustainability and Design Ethics

Tom Russ, College of Southern Maryland, La Plata, USA

ISBN: 9781439808542

Publication Date: March 25, 2010

Number of Pages: 176


Challenges some of the current codes of ethics of key professional societies

Addresses the convergence of ethics, sustainability, and the value of nature

Makes an argument for sustainability as both an obligation and an opportunity

Examines the choice of the individual professional versus the choices of organizations

Suggests ways to meet ethical challenges to provide sustainable outcomes in their work


From microcosm to macrocosm, ecodesign, green design, environmental design, and triple bottom line are quickly becoming more than just catchy phrases that describe touchy-feely trends. Increases in climate uncertainty and energy costs as well as food, water, and services insecurity are just a few of the challenges driving the growing demand for sustainable design outcomes. Sustainability and Design Ethics provides a systematic value analysis that makes a reasoned argument the rethinking of current design methods and the values and ethics which guide them.

Providing context and language, this book delineates the ideas and principles that lie at the foundation of a variety of codes of ethics, and then critically analyzes existing published codes and the practices that stem from them. It takes a practical approach, discussing applied ethics, and relies upon an understanding of the moral reasoning that supports the ideas and professionalism and an ethical standard of care. Drawing on the author's experience as a design professional and his study of business ethics, this book supplies a detailed exposition of the underlying ethical reasoning involved in the challenges confronted by contemporary design professionals. This information can then be distilled into sustainable practices and the corresponding ethics.

Sustainability requires design professionals to expand the considerations of design beyond the traditional ethical points of view and to provide a balanced analysis of how a sustainable standard of care might be composed. While other books might cover the environment and design, professional ethics are addressed as an afterthought at most, if at all. And no other book available explores sustainability from a designer's perspective. Examining present and future issues facing practitioners, the book provides a context for the values and ethics necessary for sustainable development design.

Table of Contents:

Why Does Prometheus Suffer?

Sustainability and Design

Why Sustainability Is Needed


Professional Ethics

What Is a Profession?

Evaluating Codes of Ethics

Sustainability and the Ethical Challenges for Designers



Is There an Ethical Obligation to Act Sustainably? Theories of Ethics

What Obligations Do We Have to Other Living Things?

Utilitarian Views of Nature


Who Owns the Environment?

Role of Professional Standards


The Design Professional and Organizations

Balancing Obligation and Opportunity

The Descent of Corporate Obligation

Justification for a Whistle-Blower


The Choice for Sustainability

The Design Professional as Leader

Sustainability and Obligation

Sustainability and Design Ethics


The Precautionary Principle and Design

Moral Underpinnings of the Precautionary Principle

Precautionary Principle and Design

What Do We Owe the Future?

Duty to Prevent Harm

Precaution and Design



What Ought We to Do?

Designer as Teacher

Design Values

Designer as Student


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