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Environ Sci Technol. 2003 Dec 1;37(23):5330-9.

Designing resilient, sustainable systems.

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  • 1Eco-Nomics LLC, 2351 Kensington Drive, Columbus, Ohio 43221, USA.


Pursuit of sustainable development requires a systems approach to the design of industrial product and service systems. Although many business enterprises have adopted sustainability goals, the actual development of sustainable systems remains challenging because of the broad range of economic, environmental and social factors that need to be considered across the system life cycle. Traditional systems engineering practices try to anticipate and resist disruptions but may be vulnerable to unforeseen factors. An alternative is to design systems with inherent "resilience" bytaking advantage of fundamental properties such as diversity, efficiency, adaptability, and cohesion. Previous work on sustainable design has focused largely upon ecological efficiency improvements. For example, companies have found that reducing material and energy intensity and converting wastes into valuable secondary products creates value for shareholders as well as for society at large. To encourage broader systems thinking, a design protocol is presented that involves the following steps: identifying system function and boundaries, establishing requirements, selecting appropriate technologies, developing a system design, evaluating anticipated performance, and devising a practical means for system deployment. The approach encourages explicit consideration of resilience in both engineered systems and the larger systems in which they are embedded.

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