1st Edition

Reimagining Alternative Technology for Design in the 21st Century

By Brook S. Kennedy Copyright 2023
    176 Pages 127 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    176 Pages 127 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Reimagining Alternative Technology for Design in the 21st Century presents a new approach to design that harnesses still-valuable alternative, traditional and abandoned technologies alongside the creation of new ones to address contemporary global problems. It focuses on design opportunities that reduce energy and material consumption to tackle issues such as climate change and pollution in industrialized economies.

    The book takes the reader on a journey surveying different facets of human activity to identify underused and discarded technologies that could be indispensable today. It critically addresses newer approaches to design and technology by comparing them to existing alternatives, unpacking examples including air conditioning with smart thermostats, electric lighting, durable reusable products, domestic maintenance tools and methods of transportation.

    Written for practicing designers and students in industrial design, architecture, sustainable design and human-centered design, this book provides new ideas and tools for creating more useful, energy-and-resource-efficient product designs and systems.

    Introduction: Alternative Technology for the 21st Century

    1: Why Should Alternative Technology be Reexamined?

    2: The Imperfect Renaissance of the American City Street: Sidewalks, Bike Lanes and Electric Surface Transit

    3: Heating and Cooling: Alternatives for Thermal Comfort

    4: Daylighting vs. Electric Lighting

    5: The Hidden Costs of Domestic Upkeep

    6: Return to Durable Design

    7: Reimagining Design with Traditional Materials

    8: Manual and Therefore Modern?

    9: Manufacturing with Water, Wind and Human Power

    10: Transporting Goods and People

    Conclusion: Alternative Principles for 21st-Century Design


    Brook S. Kennedy is an industrial designer and Associate Professor in the School of Architecture, Arts and Design at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), US. There his research focuses on topics in sustainable design, materials and biodesign. Prior to Virginia Tech he spent 15 years in full time practice, including as an Associate Director at Inclusive Design pioneer Smart Design in New York City, where he helped Fortune 500 clients and start-up companies embrace the value of human-centred design processes. He has been honored with numerous international design awards from the Industrial Design Society of America, International Forum (iF), Red Dot (Best of the Best), Spark!, European Product Design Awards and the Chicago Athenaeum among others. His work has been covered in the New York Times, PBS Newshour, Fast Company, NPR and the Washington Post and has been exhibited internationally. He holds more than 20 utility and design patents and has published and exhibited internationally.

    "The age of buildings as ‘machines for living in’ is ending. We live in an increasingly unpredictable world. ‘Fit for purpose’ building in the 21st century must cope with evermore extreme weather events, grid failures, finite natural resources and soaring costs of living. Buildings, and the products and furnishings inside them, must be durable, repairable and adaptable. Alternative technologies re-connect people with the free, natural energy flows of the ecosystems they occupy, enabling them to do more for less, educating them to protect against and exploit those powerful flows where useful. This book is a great read for all who are keen to survive and thrive in a different future." 

    Susan Roaf, Professor of Architectural Engineering at Heriot-Watt University, UK


    "Sometimes the best idea is one that’s tried, true and ready for a comeback. Kennedy makes a brilliant argument for innovative revivals of ideas, products and goods whose time has once again come. A must-read for anyone looking for a more sustainable future!"

    David Sax,  journalist based in Canada, and author of the best-selling book, Revenge of the Analog