The status of sustainable design in Thailand

Sustainable design encourages manufacturers to consider social and environmental impacts whilst generating economic benefits (Macdonough & Braungart, 2002). Bhamra & Lofthouse (2007) state that sustainable design can provide business opportunities to organisations though cost reduction and increased marketability. Promoting sustainable design activity has the potential to stimulate the Thai economy by responding to a global trend in sustainability. Despite this, few manufacturers have the capacity to integrate sustainability into their products due to inadequate sustainable design knowledge. Various learning strategies and materials have been developed internationally, however, they cannot be productively incorporated into Thai design education for reasons discussed in this paper. This paper presents the partial findings from PhD research that proposes to develop a more appropriate approach for learning and teaching sustainable design in Thailand. It provides overview of education for sustainability, then outlines the current status of sustainable design in Thailand by dividing into three sectors: government, business, and education. The study commenced with a review of relevant literature and secondary data, which indicated a limited amount of material for the Thai context. Primary data collection was undertaken to address this shortfall through semi-structured interviews with experts participated in sustainable design activities. The findings indicated that Thailand has increased its focus on sustainability over recent years; a range of sustainable design initiatives has been carried out. However, the implementation of sustainable design in Thailand is not widespread because of three main obstacles. Firstly, imbalance between the three pillars of sustainability — most sustainable design activities have given priority to economic issues. Secondly, a lack of solid linkage among the initiatives — most of them have run individually and have not resulted in significant impacts. Thirdly, Thailand is lacking in sustainable design knowledge — most participants involved in these initiatives lack an understanding of this concept.