use efficiency philosophy
An Integrated Approach to
Resource Use Efficiency:
More than two decades of successful performance in ecological engineering
and maintenance management in some of the harshest regions in southern
Africa have shown that there are at least eighteen interconnected guiding principles for
sustainable use of resources relating to four categories: Ecology, Economy,
Society and Technology. These principles must balance to conserve a product,
process or service
for extended output. The categories economy, society and technology belong
to the human society which in itself is a complex adaptive system
embedded in another even more complex adaptive system -the natural environment
All eighteen guiding principles must be addressed equally and weighted when planning a new product,
process or service or when maintaining an existing
one. Only together do they constitute a function
orientation and aim at ecological sustainability and economic
viability. This set of eighteen guiding principles is also the basis of
barometer for rural and urban development and technology evaluation. The table below may well
serve as checklist for resource planning and management.
of structures and processes
of materials and processes
in social and cultural environment
This set of 18 guiding
principles is outlined below
The first five guiding principles below represent the global, complex adaptive system -the natural
The innovative use of resources is the first of eighteen
guiding principles and relates to natural, financial, human,
information and time
resources. It includes a subset of cybernetic principles such as the
principle of self regulation through negative feedback, the
principle of multiple use such as serving a number of purposes/functions at the
same time, the principle of recycling requiring the reintegration
of processes, services or products, the principle of symbiosis or the
exploitation of differences, coupling and exchange, the principle of
biological design through feedback planning.
waste minimization again relates to natural, financial,
human, information and time resources. This guiding principle addresses the
minimization of 'not-for-use outcomes' of a product, process or service cycle and
the recycling of such outcomes.
Mind, nature does not know waste where
humankind suffocates under mountains of waste on all continents.
energy use efficiency relates mostly to
natural, financial, human and time resources and associates with a flow
minimization of non-renewable resources and integration of renewable
water use efficiency relates to the
most precious and elementary natural resource and deals with water cycle
management and the periodic sustainable yield. (e.g. refer to
water footprints online)
land use efficiency is linked to the concept of global and
national -even regional and local- ecological footprints. For
sustainability these land use footprints in a region have to be smaller
than nature's carrying capacity in that same region. This concept is well established and
documented through the Global
The next three guiding principles relate to the category 'economy', one of
the central drives of human activity where monetary flows in the end determine
people's quality of life.
relating to levels of disposable resources and ratios such as expenses for
food/shelter/services/operation costs etc. to total disposable income.
(7) monetary value creation potential is concerned with monetary
value stability and preferably an increase of monetary value for future
income to improve quality of life.
skills, competences and resource commitment needed to make a system
viable or to maintain its viability.
The next five guiding principles are concerned with the category 'society'
and the wellbeing of humankind.
is an elementary attribute for all living systems. Neglecting
health&safety risks severely impedes people's quality of life and
aspects is another elementary systemic attribute. A system must be
enabled/empowered to protect itself from the detrimental effects of
environmental variability, i.e. fluctuating and unpredictable conditions
outside the normal (healthy) environmental state.
is a partially subjective attribute. Strong correlations between
attractiveness and particular physical properties have been found across
cultures. Despite significant variation, there exists a strong extent of
agreement among cultures as to what is perceived as attractive when it is
associated with human health and wellbeing. This attribute needs to be
monitored and researched continuously. People will find attractive what
gives them the feeling of personal wellbeing.
in social and cultural environment. A product or service can only
be received at the basis of people's socio-cultural background.
Integration in social and cultural environment means respecting the
security/self-protection and freedom needs of people.
of people is a partially subjective attribute, like
attractiveness, and relates to people's quality of life. In part it
expresses the standard of living such as the amount of money and access to
goods and services that a person has. However, wellbeing is far more
related to freedom, happiness, art, environmental health, innovation and
livability. People's quality of life is a central indicator in any
living system, it is however difficult to objectively measure it.
The last five guiding principles are linked to the category 'technology'
and deal primarily with the technical aspects of a product, process or
completion or DIY-suitability relates to the old
pattern of personal involvement in home building and upkeep,
or the making of clothing and artifacts, or any material aspect
of living. DIY-suitability is
a key criterion for e.g. low income housing in third world regions and
often determines growth and survival at grass root level.
relates to the
ability to easily add new functionality to existing services, processes or products
without redefining the basic architecture.
Extendibility is also a key criterion for e.g. low income housing in third
world regions and often determines growth at grass root level.
of materials and processes relates to the
ability of a material, service or product to withstand the destructive
agents -e.g. weathering, normal wear&tear- with which it
comes in contact.
refers to the
ease with which a product, process or service can be modified to change or add
capabilities/functions, improve performance, or correct defects.
of designs and services relates to the
quality of being able to fit multiple demands and competing priorities in
a changing environment.