ethics and design principles


Mollison has a very small section on ‘work place’ design in the Designer’s Manual (p49) with the main points for design considerations:

  • multi-functional space
  • use flow charts for work processes
  • consultation with people using the space
  • also applicable for ‘traffic-ways’


Main design consideration for buildings:

  • passive solar design
  • natural construction materials
  • water harvesting and waste reuse
  • biotecture (trees form as basis for structures)
  • earth sheltered construction
  • natural disaster resistant construction
  • owner building (empowerrment and financial autonomy of residents and communities in constructing their own housing using accessible technologies and materials)
  • pattern language (organic design theory)

I applied Holmgren’s design principles to generate ideas for the design of a community building:

AH applying the principles

Retrofit principles

Arc Hall is an ecologically design building and retrofitting principles have been considered in the energy survey, analysis and design, see energy analysis for more specific action points for Arc Hall:

  • power down
    • draughtproofing and ventilation
    • insulation
    • passive solar gain
    • energy efficient heating system
    • energy efficient appliances
    • switching to a renewable heat source
  • power up
  • generating renewable energy
  • community level energy generation

Environment for children design principles

Key design principles I drew from Christopher Day’s work are:

  • take into account children’s experience of space
  • take into account the evolving environmental needs of the child: moving from security to independence through exploration and adventure
  • increase spaces or niches for different play/learning situations, indoors and outdoors, without fixed outcomes or forms, rather for exploration and later manipulation
  • create a balanced environment of stimulation and calm
  • create reassurance by design – ‘building legibility’ – what rooms are for, their relationships and hierarchy
  • create security to venture out from
  • create semi-protected play space – easily supervised
  • create opportunities for adventure – climbing trees, playing with water
  • create opportunities for creativity – move from hard to natural forms in structures and spaces
  • create opportunities to learn sociability – cooperative tasks, social and group spaces
  • create thresholds between spaces – entrance, social space, home corner, outside
  • village layouts/smaller spaces grouped around larger social spaces
  • use natural materials and plants to improve air quality and minimise pollution
  • consider all senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste, movement, balance, warmth
  • consider light: windows and lighting, maximise daylight
  • consider the journey experience: arrival, a meeting place, consider entrance as threshold, a welcoming gate / approach journey to building along a winding path, directional clarity with intriguing invitation / entrance to building with lingering parent’s space / indoor journey
  • outdoor space: shelter for all-weather play, gardens for the soul and showing care, vegetable gardens to connect with natural cycles of seasons and birth and death – for kindergartens: reverent, educational and productive – teaching multifunctionality, diversity, for young children in particular with upward-looking flowers, light trees, fruit trees, niches for old tree trunks, moss, tiny flowers and water
  • learning to care for the environment: from reverence to conscious care (rather than from reverence to exploitation) by
    • making nature’s cycles visible: solar cycles (sundials, using spaces according to sunlight), seasonal cycles (being outdoors, garden seasons, food seasons), nutrient cycles (grey water toilet, compost toilets, composting food waste, recycling), water cycle (water play, water butts, spring water pumps
    • living with the elements: earth (sand pit, mud pit, building), water (clay modelling), air (outdoor play and shelters), fire (fire making, clay oven, wood stoves, cooking on fire)
    • integrating all living things: birds, insects, animals and water life
    • sustainability in daily view: connection with source, ie natural materials, foods, etc / recycling / energy use / solar energy / water use etc