This paper proposes an operational framework for developing an environmentally progressive mode of design practice. This framework, based on the concepts of frugality and robustness, seeks to balance a project's first cost with the anticipated energy and material flows over its lifetime. Focusing on a conceptual rather than a computational basis for understanding issues related to green design, the framework is intended to provide an approachable “first step” for practitioners interested in developing an ethic of sustainability in their work.
Frugality is here understood as the conservation of resources by limiting or eliminating their use and robustness as the conservation of resources by deploying them in such a way as to maximize their usefulness over an extended time and varying circumstances. This paper outlines how, by embracing both robustness and frugality, a design professional might develop an environmentally progressive mode of practice while maintaining his or her professional responsibility toward the project budget; yielding an approach that is broadly applicable to a wide range of projects.