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Boosting Eco-design and Co-creation practices in Makespaces
The Fab Lab communities are newly engaged in several projects that involve the idea of rethink the sustainability, re-localising manufacturing and promote collaborative learning culture, Fab Labs are now perceived as key spaces for actively developing practical knowledge and create interactions with local (re)manufacturing businesses, public and global institutions and digital networks toward a more sustainable and redistributed manufacturing. For now, the culture of eco-design and circular economy remains still at an embryonic stage in the maker education and activities. Kothala (2015) highlights the need to adapt these skills by exploring how the makerspaces and their effective practices of social and digital fabrication could better consider, assess and improve their environmental impacts when designing, prototyping and making new systems. The paper aims at exploring what could be the future skills developed in Fab Labs for supporting the transition towards more circular cities and how the digital fabrication revolution could encourage opportunities for sustainable design.
The study is based on the results of two ongoing projects realized in the Fab Lab of Barcelona.
- During the Fab Academy course, a Material Flow Analysis was realised to follow in real-time the effective flow of materials and to engage students to be aware of their impacts while giving them eco-design guidelines and tools to optimise the use of materials. One of this tool was a geographical interactive map for endeavouring more local and circular provisions.
- In the frame of the EU-SISCODE project, Fab Lab Barcelona has organised a co-creation challenge dedicated to urban ecosystems. It aimed to develop systemic skills by inviting participants to think at both material, product and ecosystem level. Indeed students from diverse schools, makers and local stakeholders had to (1) reach a precise knowledge of the local resource flows, (2) explore new techniques for supporting material innovation from local wastes and (3) propose new product components for existing complex systems by constantly raising awareness of the potential environmental and social impacts they are generating.
These two projects highlight the necessity to propose both technical skills that students can use during their projects to assess their environmental implications as well as co-creation skills that encourage them to consider innovations from a participatory approach. Furthermore, the projects boost the engagement for discussions with other stakeholders on ethic and sustainability behind design choices for emerging systems. The two projects are pilots that may contribute to envision the design of new courses for makers and thus, shape how sustainable education could be better integrated in the Fab Lab and Fab City networks.