Why is Fourth Generation Evaluation Essential for Sustainable Design?

By Carmela Cucuzzella.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Traditional methods of evaluation in a context of sustainable design present limits for innovation, on their own when designers seek transformational innovation or in other words, those that go beyond performance optimizations. Why is optimization a limiting strategy for sustainability, on its own? Because traditional forms of inquiry are best suited for assessing short and medium term design solutions within a disciplinary perspective, adopting universal norms or laws, yet, the types of solutions sought in a context of sustainability are long‐term that span various disciplines and professions and that require site specific, local solutions. Traditional methods of evaluation which are predominantly quantitative cannot adequately assess such long-term visions as uncertainties are far too great and therefore the predictability of long-term results is unreliable. As much as these approaches are fundamental to help build a part of a larger picture of the design project, ways in which to integrate these with more global approaches has become essential. Sustainable innovation requires that systems are transformed, not only on a technical level, but on an organizational, social and cultural level as well implying the need for a more global systems approach. Quantitative evaluation approaches alone cannot address this broader perspective because the more one tends towards a systems perspective, the more it involves various actors, changes in the way things are done, reorganization and modifications of potentially sensitive social and cultural practices and structures. In other words, the difficulty lies not only in the implementation of the solution, but maybe more importantly on the acceptability of the proposed solutions. This is why fourth generation evaluation as defined by Guba and Lincoln (1989) is being proposed as a viable alternative to traditional evaluation approaches in a context of sustainable design.

Keywords: Sustainable Design, Evaluation, Fourth Generation Evaluation, Integrated Design Process, Collaborative Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.239-252. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 982.235KB).

Dr. Carmela Cucuzzella

Doctorate Candidate, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Design at the Université de Montréal. I am also a research assistant for L.E.A.P. (Laboratoire d’étude de l’architecture potentielle) and student member of CIRAIG. I obtained my M.App.Sc in Environmental Design (Design and Complexity option) at the Université de Montréal in 2007. I also received a Bachelor in Fine Arts (Design Art option) in 2005 and a Bachelor in Computer Science (Systems Architecture option) in 1990. My areas of interest include sustainable design and development, evaluation methods for sustainable design, social approach to design, and ethical and responsible design.

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