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Co-Designing Sustainable Communities: The Identification and Incorporation of Social Performance Metrics in Native American Sustainable Housing and Renewable Energy System Design

  • Author(s): Shelby, Ryan
  • Advisor(s): Agogino, Alice M
  • et al.

Co-Designing Sustainable Communities: The Identification and Incorporation of Social Performance Metrics in Native American Sustainable Housing and Renewable Energy System Design

By: Ryan L. Shelby

Doctor of Philosophy in Mechanical Engineering

University of California, Berkeley

Professor Alice M. Agogino, Chair

Over the last quarter-century, the twin concepts of sustainability and sustainable development have emerged as a defining imperative of humanity that is situated at the nexus of science, technology, culture, economics, policy and the environment. These twin concepts are both framed as a means to mitigate the negative impacts of natural resource depletion, energy consumption, water consumption, and climate changing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated anthropogenic activities. Since the creation of the term `sustainable development' in the Brundtland Commission's Our Common Future report in 1987 until the present, there has not been a determinate meaning assigned to it. Over the last 25 years, advocates of sustainable development have been trying to assign different frameworks to the ill-defined concept first expressed in the report: that development should "meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".

When one reviews the Brundtland Commission's report, one finds that (1) `needs' are not defined, (2) the processes for identifying these `needs' are not defined, (3) sustainability indicators or performance metrics for measuring these `needs' are not defined, and (4) there is an implicit assumption that the society of the present will have some idea and understanding of the `needs' that the society of the future will possess. These voids within Our Common Future present a great opportunity for the creation of a methodological framework that allows designers, engineers, and community members to understand the needs and the social performance metrics that local communities utilize to define sustainability and evaluate technology options for their sustainability goals.

This dissertation is a case study of a design research project with the Pinoleville Pomo Nation (PPN), a federally recognized, self-governing Native American tribe located near Ukiah, California, to determine their framework for sustainability framework, to identify their needs as it relates to their sustainability framework, and to co-design housing and renewable energy power systems to meet their needs. The design research was conducted between April 2008 and May 2011 with members from the PPN tribal government, administration, and community members living on and off the primary land base near Ukiah, California. The emphasis of this research is not about merely providing technological solutions for the PPN to adopt; nor is it about getting the PPN to return to some romanticized way of life in which indigenous people lived with no environmental impact. Instead, this research focuses on the development of the co-design methodological framework that fosters the co-production of knowledge as it relates to sustainable buildings and energy systems design and implementation by situating the concept of sustainability and sustainable development in the local context of the end user community.

The co-design methodological framework presented in this dissertation represents a discourse contribution in the areas of eliciting end user needs/metrics, situating sustainability knowledge bases, the role of citizens in the design of engineering systems, and community-based design approaches for the development of sustainable communities. This dissertation operationalizes the identification of local sustainability frameworks, the identification of needs for sustainability, the identification of social performance metrics for sustainability, and the co-design of solutions to meet local sustainability frameworks within the aforementioned discourse areas.

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