Four UC Davis students from the Studio in Sustainable Design class created this model of an apartment along with the brochure, “An Easy Guide for sustainable Living for Renters.”

Four UC Davis design students have come up with an imaginative way to share tips for renters looking to save money and reduce their environmental impact. They  created their own 2 x 2.5 foot model of a furnished apartment with an accompanying brochure entitled An Easy Guide to Sustainable Living for Renters.

The students work, developed in Ann Savageau’s Studio for Sustainable Design class, could have a significant impact in Davis. Over half the residents in this small University town are renters, and if landlords have tools to show their tenants how to live sustainably, both the apartment owners and the renters will save money, reduce energy and consumption, and ultimately lower our collective carbon footprint.

Drawn to the Cool Davis goal to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions for the City of Davis, and design student Kane Chac believes this apartment model will visually help people understand where and how to conserve energy. The model apartment will be shown in upcoming Cool Davis events to see the model apartment.

Why Live Sustainably?

“Why live sustainably?” asked April Kim, a design graduate who lives in an apartment.

Simply put, we consume too much. Sustainability is the ability to provide for the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.

“Sustainability is the ability to provide for the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future.”

However, because of the way we live, our planet is on the fast track to running out of natural resources and to polluting our environment, and it is not looking so good for future generations. To live sustainably is better for people, the planet, and the economy. So, why not?

Jessica Chao, a design and art studio graduate, initially chose to work on the project because she loves model-making. Once she realized how easy it is for renters to save energy, she considered trying some of the tips herself.

For starters, in the kitchen she now turns off the dishwasher to save on electricity while the dishes air dry, and she uses cloth towels to spare both trees and the expense of paper towels. In the living room, she uses a smart power strip that shuts off power automatically to avoid wasting electricity.

Taking shorter showers and turning off the water while brushing her teeth or washing her hands also lowers utility bills and saves both water and electricity. Adding a valence over curtains stops air currents that circulate unwanted cold or warm air trapped against the windows into the room.

Designing for Sustainability

“Sustainability plays a huge part in the design world. Designers create so much of what society sees and what we use,” Chao said.

“During this time of global crisis, designers have the power to help repair the world. The things we design for society can help reduce energy or even help people to realize their excessive consumption as well as show how they can change their lifestyle to lessen their impact. Thus, I hope to be a part of the change, and hopefully the things I design in my career will be geared toward bettering our planet.”

April Kim added, “I haven’t fully decided whether I want to be an interior designer or an architect, but I definitely want to be involved in the world of residential design. Sustainability is obviously a big concern in this field because many of the changes needed for sustainable living begin in the home.”

“Many of the changes needed for sustainable living begin in the home.”

Kane Chac echoed her project partners. Design has a huge impact in how we live every day, and through Savageau’s classes Chac recognized that each individual product we use is a designed piece. As a designer, Chac plans to expand her creativity to design products for sustainability and multiple lives while utilizing recyclable and reused materials to give them a new life and purpose.

Ann Savageau teaches a two-course series for Design undergraduates at UC Davis to help train the next generation of designers in the principles and practices of sustainability. She finds the students are “passionate about learning to practice sustainability, and incredibly resourceful and imaginative in upcycling campus waste into attractive and useful new products.”

The students give her great hope for the future of the planet. Cool Davis has been fortunate to collaborate with Savageau and some of her students for several years.