Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Q&A: Professor Jeremy Faludi

Photograph by Karen Endicott.

Thayer’s newest assistant professor, Jeremy Faludi, is a sustainable design strategist whose research interests include design methods, life-cycle assessment, sustainability metrics, green 3D printing, additive manufacturing, and green building. He created the Whole System Mapping sustainable design method, coauthored the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop, and designed the prototype of AskNature.org for the Biomimicry Institute. He has contributed to six books on sustainable design, including Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century. He holds a BA in physics from Reed College, an MEng in product design from Stanford, and a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

How did you go from physics to design?
Two reasons: One, because I’ve always been torn between being an artist and a scientist, and design is one of the few places that you can be—and, indeed, should be—both. Design thinking is a scientific method for complex messy things that are not amenable to reductionism. The other was that I specifically wanted to do green design, to make the world a better place in a tangible way that improves people’s daily lives while helping the planet.

Why is design so important to you?
Partly because of the artist/scientist balance, partly because I’m strongly affected by the immediate experience of things in everyday life—the curve of a door handle, the heft of silverware in my hand, the navigation of a website—all these things delight or annoy me to maybe an unreasonable extent, so I want them all to be wonderful.

What is the Whole System Mapping sustainable design method you created?
It came about because most people know we need to address sustainability concerns on the whole system level to make the greatest impacts, but whole systems are hard to hold in your head all at once, so designers and engineers usually only last a few minutes there before collapsing back into the weeds of detailed design. At the same time, quantitative assessments of environmental impact are usually done at the end of the design process, when you have the best data, rather than at the beginning, where you have the most leverage to change things. So I tried to fix both of these problems by making the Whole System Mapping design method use quantitative environmental impacts to set the design priorities from the beginning and draw out the whole system map so people can use it for their idea generation, getting into the weeds and seeing the big picture at the same time.

What attracted you to Dartmouth at this point in your career?
I loved the idea of a department without discipline boundaries, since everything I do is interdisciplinary. I also loved the ethos of engineering in a liberal arts college, because the thing this world needs most is for the people who build the material world—engineers, business people, etc.—to rebuild it in service to society and nature. Studying engineering by itself only teaches you to build things right; studying humanity and nature also teaches you to build the right things.

Categories: The Great Hall, Q&A

Tags: design, environment, faculty, research

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