Design for Government course 2014

In the academic year 2013 – 2014, projects for Design for Government were commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment.

Final presentations were shown on May 28, 2014, at MAO exhibition space.
Link to overview of the event
Link to videos of final presentations

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The projects from the ministry were formulated as two umbrella themes – Accessibility of Buildings and Reducing the Use of Plastic Bags. As briefs for student teamwork, these were each divided into three sub-themes. Here are the themes and sub-themes:

Umbrella theme 1. Accessibility of Buildings

Introduction

Accessibility in both old and new buildings is of growing national importance due to the ageing population that should be able to live independently at their homes in near future. The theme touches many other different groups as well – families with babies, people with disabilities or injury, just to name a few. The Ministry of the Environment is in the process of renewing Regulations and Guidelines for Barrier-free Building – that is accessibility of buildings.

Students of the Design for Government course are given a chance to contribute to this process from many different angles: how the current regulations work in practice, how to communicate them in comprehensible and attractive ways, how new incentives or new structure of incentives might promote accessibility, and which existing or new practical designs for implementation would best serve the needs of the target groups.

Current versions of National Building Code relevant to accessibility: F1, F2, and G1

Sub-theme 1. Communication

Under this theme, students will explore how the components of the law in different levels – act, decree, regulation, and recommendation – are comprehended (or miscomprehended) and how they affect the implementation of the law in practical solutions. As the Ministry is renewing the accessibility regulations and guidelines, the students have the freedom to propose new tools that promote the aims of the law in practice or improve existing ones. This sub-theme deals with also other potential tools for communication – online, multimedia, or outdoor installations, just to mention a few.

Examples of potential outcomes: 1) More comprehensive form of the law/regulation 2) New tools that translate the regulation into practice replacing the old guidelines

Sub-theme 2. Incentives

Under this theme, the students will closely look into incentives for barrier-free buildings currently offered by the government: how they enable or hinder preferred outcomes, how they could be modified or redesigned to fit the purpose. The aim is to develop policy tools that makes the accessibility of building an attractive pursuit for the key stakeholders. The theme is aimed towards redesign of the current schemes or to new proposals in both non-monetary and monetary incentives.

Examples of potential outcomes: new incentive schemes at different levels of government for enhancing accessibility of buildings

Sub-theme 3. Implementation

Under this theme, students will examine people’s needs and aspirations regarding accessibility, and explore exemplary designs for implementation with systemic potential. The students should work closely with different user groups to find out the important touch points for accessibility in a building or its surroundings. The students will produce the designs taking typical existing ones (e.g. those of accessible bathroom) as a starting point. This does not only mean the floor plan but also the written requirements that can be flexibly applied in buildings, spaces or outdoor built environment.

Examples of potential outcomes: Exemplary designs for implementation

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Umbrella theme 2. Reducing the Use of Plastic Bags

Introduction

Plastic is a major source of marine littering damaging the sea. Plastics contain hazardous chemicals that easily dissolve in water. Plastic waste can also be harmful to animals – e.g. birds eat plastic debris mistaking them for food – becoming a rapidly increasing cause of mortality among various species. In addition, microscopic plastic debris in the water cannot be removed and therefore the toxic chemicals may accumulate in marine fauna. This creates a hazardous cycle in the nature ecosystem that is difficult to break.

The EU commission is preparing changes to a directive which aims towards a reduction in the number of plastic bags used in the member states. The proposal is currently being reviewed by the member states and it will be processed further during the Spring of 2014. The national legislation or other policy measures will follow later. There are dissimilarities between EU nations regarding the issue: excessive plastic bag usage is a major problem in some member states while, based on the current statistics it is less significant in other states, including Finland. Consequently, a careful consideration is required to create customised actions and policy measures for each country.

The students of the Design for Government course will work with the Ministry of the Environment, rethinking the information and communication about the matter, as well as the recycling and plastic bag usage from retail and user perspective. The students will explore the EU directive in the Finnish context looking at plastic bag usage and impact with most recent research findings from production and usage to littering and recycling, and identify new solutions through a human-centred approach.

Sub-theme 1. Communication and education

Students will work on potential solutions related to communication, information and education. The aim is to raise the awareness about the problems of plastic bag usage in a positive way, and thereby have an impact on people’s plastic bag usage as the consumption and disposal of plastic bags is substantially dependant upon one’s level of knowledge and willingness to reduce and recycle. The students will identify people’s exposure to the necessary information and education on the issue. Based on their understanding, they will create concepts that make the issues around plastic bags more understandable and contribute to a positive behaviour change related to their usage. The format of the communication or education can be decided by the students and they can be physical, digital or both.

Examples of potential outcomes: concepts that communicate, inform or educate issues related to plastic bag usage

Sub-theme 2. Littering and recycling

The students will follow the life of plastic bags after serving its initial purpose of carrying things – the process of disposal and recycling, and explore the possible ways to support better use of them or enhanced recycling. The solutions developed here may have larger consequences regarding other plastics too, such as plastic packaging, or the production of plastic bags.

Examples of potential outcomes: concepts that aim to reduce the amount of disposed plastic bags or enhance the reuse, recycling or upcycling

Sub-theme 3. Retail experience

The students will observe how people pick up and use plastic bags in retail environment – at fruit stands, service counters and check-out counters in grocery shops, for example. The students will develop practical solutions considering the incentives or regulations for retail helping people reduce the excess use of plastic bags or use less environmentally taxing alternatives. The environmental impact of the alternative solutions should also be examined.

Examples of potential outcomes: systemic solutions changing the existing norm of using plastic bags in shops