eδ-resource 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 (ecology)-.

The Guiding Principles:
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 our eσ-sustainability&viability barometer for rural and urban development and technology evaluation. The table below may well serve as checklist for resource planning and management.

Ecology Economy Society Technology
innovative use of 
affordability  health&safety DIY-suitability
waste minimization monetary value creation potential  security aspects extendibility of structures and processes
energy use efficiency manageability  attractiveness durability of materials and processes
water use efficiency   integration in social and cultural environment maintainability
land use efficiency   wellbeing of people adaptability

This set of 18 guiding principles is outlined below

The first five guiding principles below represent the global, complex adaptive system -the natural environment (ecology).
(1) 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. 
(2) 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. 
(3) 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 resources. 
(4) 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)
(5) 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 Footprint Network

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. 
(6) affordability 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.
(8) manageability: 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.
(9) health&safety is an elementary attribute for all living systems. Neglecting health&safety risks severely impedes people's quality of life and wellbeing.
(10) security 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.
(11) attractiveness 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. 
(12) integration 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.
(13) wellbeing 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 service. 
(14) self-help 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.
(15) extendibility 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. 
(16) durability 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.
(17) maintainability 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.
(18) adaptability of designs and services relates to the quality of being able to fit multiple demands and competing priorities in a changing environment.


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Copyright 2007 
eco-systemix Namibia 
Last update: 02. April 2008

environmental systems training and consulting 
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