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Sustainable / Universal Design

Fumikazu Masuda

Professor , Tokyo Zokei University : Japan

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Perhaps the benefits of sustainable and universal designs become most evident during times of natural disasters. In such events, everybody lacks accessibility and is disabled, and all facilities and products require a universal design. We are, so to speak, potential victims of the threats and dangers of the natural environment, and under such unpredictable conditions, we must learn to live and survive as proficiently and efficiently as possible.

If the universal design is to make the massive amount of products that flood our lives right now more convenient and easy to use by replacing them with new ones or adding new features to them, it is a contradiction to the concept of a sustainable design. In contrast, what we must do is to regulate and simplify the excessive features and over-complex communication systems in order to make them more usable.

Basically everybody has different needs and uses for everything, and taking into consideration the different conditions under which things are used, it seems obvious that the variation is limitless; however, resources and space are limited, and since we already have too many things right now, we are better off improving the situation not by adding more things to our lives but by using our wisdom and ingenuity. We have to enhance the “application of software,” in other words, use our imagination, develop flexible features, and devise alternative solutions. Among such measures, one of the most effective is physical support.

We are entering an era of living a simple lifestyle in which people try to restrain as much as possible their consumption of natural resources. However, to be socially fair, we must be careful not to leave out anybody in this kind of materialistically simple society.

Sustainable designs must be socially fair. Being socially fair means that the basic needs of each individual in every society all over the world are being met. Social fairness includes food, water, shelter, living expenses, abolition of child and forced labor, providing education, basic medical care, as well as many other things.

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Sustainable Designs are a Challenge and Hope!

Ryoichi Yamamoto

Professor, Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo : Japan

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All sustainable designs are universal designs, and all universal designs must be sustainable designs.

Scientific background

  • Around 2006 – is it the point of no return when we will no longer be able to prevent a mass extinction of living species? Is it the point of no return when Greenland’s ice sheet starts to melt?
  • 2008 – the G8 Summit in Japan
  • 2010 – International exposition in Shanghai
  • 2012 – the 3rd Environment Summit
  • Around 2016 – the rise in global temperature exceeds 1.5°C? Is it the point of no return when mankind can no longer prevent the weather crisis?
  • Will the rise in global temperature exceed 2°C around 2028? Will billions of lives be taken?


  1. The survival of mankind depends completely on the ecosystem/existence of diverse living creatures.
  2. Therefore, we must protect other living species by suppressing the rise in global temperature to less than 1.5°C, not 2°C.
  3. This year, 2006, may be the point of no return in determining whether the rise in global temperature will exceed 1.5°C in 2016. If that is the case, we must act now this year, or else it will be too late.

Designers all over the world, aim to create sustainable designs!

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