Except Sustainable Design
  Consult   Design   Present

sustainable project development, sustainability research, ecological architecture, green architecture, green development, integrated development, integrated design, urban agriculture, people planet profit architecture, Symbiosis in Design, sustainable community design, environmental consultancy, design consultancy.

Systems design, life cycle analysis, GIS (Geographical Information systems), urban planning, sustainable urban planning, innovative sustainable architecture.

Company Overview & History
Vision & Global Priorities
How we work & What we do
Environmental Policy & CSR
Working at Except
Clients & Partners
Publications & Brochures

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  Except's Vision

In recent years, global environmental policy has become almost a single-issue arena: most companies and policy makers are seemingly fixated on climate change. Though the fate of our climate is undeniably an extremely important issue, in the context of achieving a sustainable future as a whole, it is just one piece of the puzzle, which cannot even be addressed without adopting a broader perspective.

"...far beyond simple material and energy efficiency..."

Beyond Efficiency
Beyond knowing how to compare tradeoffs between different areas of impact, more fundamentally, at Except we recognize that the challenge of sustainability goes far beyond simple material and energy efficiency.

A great deal of the impact we have as humans is tied to our behaviors and expectations. Likewise, the impacts we generate as a society don't only derive from the objects we have, but how, when, and why we use them.

To better understand Except's approach, we can imagine our society as a complex machine with various cogs and gears spinning within it to keep it running. These cogs and gears are our everyday technologies – cars, planes, lightbulbs, computers. They move people from place to place, facilitate communication, allow us to read after dark, travel around the world, and perform many other amazing and useful functions. Ideally, we like to keep all of those, but without their negative impact.


The Object-Trap
Currently, most environmental policies are focused on the level of these 'negative' objects. In other words, they are centered around finding cogs and wheels within the machine of our society that could be running a bit more efficiently, and making an effort to replace them with “better” versions.

The system as a whole, its purpose, direction and impact, will not change if we just switch out cogs and gears. It isn't the cogs that need upgrading: the configuration of the overall system is inefficient. We need to redesign the machine itself. We need to begin functioning differently within our societies, changing the patterns of our behavior, and reducing our impact by orders of magnitude, not just by tiny increments.

While focusing on the object-level, the benefits of environmental solutions are often not seen, as they take place on a system-wide level.

Systems-Level Enagagement
Using a systems approach to develop a transition path towards this evolution of society carries with it a great number of advantages. These advantages often play out on societal, economic and ecological levels, maintain their effecivity in the long term, and are perfectly scalable.

For this, we have developed our own systems methodology, called Symbiosis in Development (SiD). It allows us to consider social, economic, and environmental trade-offs in a complete and structured fashion.

"We need to begin functioning differently within our societies..."

Managing Complexity
To achieve the succesful design of systems solutions, we need an integrated approach, where all disciplines work together, where information is freely shared among parties, where broad perspectives are combined with specialized microscopes.

Using that approach a wealth of opportunities becomes available. Nature resolves itself as a vast library of highly sophisticated solutions we can use as examples, inspiration and technical solutions. Quality of life becomes the variable to optimize for, while being able to make profit, and grow intelligently.

"...paths of action that reconfigure the system to optimize as many areas as possible..."

Integrated Approach
That is what is unique about our company: it is on this network level of intervention that Except plays its greatest role. When doing any kind of analysis of a sustainability-related question, we use the SiD categories represented in ELSIA: Energy and materials, Life, Society and culture, Individuals, and Actions.

We look at all of the potential consequences of any decision or intervention along all of these planes, and choose paths of action that reconfigure the system to optimize as many of these areas as possible.

  Global Priorities

In this section are outlined the issues Except recognises as being among the top priority of sustainable development. They have been categorised using Symbiosis in Design's ELSIA method, which ensures a comprehensive coverage of issues. A diagram of the ELSIA categorisation is shown below.

We've categorised major negative as well as positive priorities. At Except we believe these problems can be solved while creating or maintining a high quality level of life for all people and ecological systems on earth.

ELSIA Relationship system
SiD ELSIA Relationship system


Matter: Energy

  1. Peak oil is a fact. From 2007 onwards, extracting oil will become increasingly expensive, causing critical processes in society to become increasingly expensive, most importantly transportation and agriculture. While coal supplies are abundant, its usage is limited by the atmosphere's capacity for carbon absorption rather than its supply.

  2. CO2 limits have been surpassed, and need to be brought down to secure a stable climate system. Our energy supply is the largest contributor to this. Renewable energy sources are a viable alternative to oil, if applied properly.

  3. Exisitng energy power structures are damaging to society in various political, economic and ecological strata. Renewable energy offers the opportunity for decentralized energy generation and distribution, and a breakdown of these power structures.

Life: Ecosystems

  1. Ocean and Marine ecosystems are declining rapidly. Ocean acidity levels cause many ecosystems and species to be damaged beyond repair, or go extinct, and reduce its capacity for CO2 absorbtion.

  2. Land is running out, with very little space for expansion for agricultural services. With our current consumption patterns and growing population, we will not have enough resources available. Current agricultural methods are depleting the soil, damage the land and result in monocultures that have devastating effects on biodiversity and ecosystems.

  3. Our nitrogen flow is unfocused and poorly managed. The current system cannot be maintained without oil, in addition to causing eutrophied water systems.

Society: Culture

  1. Network-based organizations are increasingle becoming part of our culture and economy. They allow a form of direct democracy to manifest itself, and rapid non-profit development to flourish.

  2. Sustainability is still seen as an object-oriented problem that does not focus on the entire system. This can lead to shifting damaging effects from one area to another.

  3. The balance of Social Justice is increasingly disparate. Many developing countries are burdened with waste and resource shortages that are due to excesses of the developed world. While the western world is able to switch to renewable energy sources at will, developing countries will be unjustly affected by climate regulation in their development.

Individual: Health

  1. Our bodies are becoming a storage unit for heavy metals and are increasingly being genetically affected by toxic pollutants in our environment, our food and our homes.

  2. The continuing increase in use of medicines is affecting our health and pollutes drainage water systems causing genetic defects in animal and plant life.

  3. Increasing lack of access to fresh water in the developing world will lead to sickness and famines.

Matter: Materials

  1. Water scarcity is set to become the number one world problem this century. Currently fresh water is wasted in industry and society in an alarming rate.

  2. We are running out of materials, among which various specialized metals such as Tantalum. This will curb the development of electronics and other industries.

  3. Many chemicals used in products end up in the environment, causing toxic, genetic and fertility effects.

  4. Atmospheric Pollution. Smog, exchaust gasses, fine particulates and volatile organic compounds make our air unfit to breathe for humans and animal life alike.

  5. Phosphates, basic and scarce building blocks of life, are poorly managed in our society. Many of them end up burnt in incinerators or washed away into watersheds where they cause unbalances in existing ecological systems.

Life: Species

  1. Biodiversity is falling rapidly, all over our planet. Beyond a certain level of biodiversity loss ecosystems will lose their key species and collapse.

  2. Marine life is extinguished rapidly. Overfishing, damage from chemicals and unchecked ecological damage by development will cause a major loss of fisheries and other marine life. It has been predicted that we will lose all coral reefs this century.

Society: Economy

  1. The current economic system rewards maximising profit at the cost of the environment, people and political fairness.

  2. The complexity of economic and governance systems are becoming too intricate to comprehend. This results in plummeting efficiencies and unpredictable effects.

  3. Our current economical system is untransparent and has leaks and highly unstable leverage systems in place. Striving for an economy based on real value is a major task for our society.

Individual: Happiness

  1. Increasing stress levels are affecting children and adolescents as well as adults.

  2. The continuing commercialization of society due to the pressure of the material economy results in unsatisfied and unhappy "shoppers" while fuelling enormous material wastes.

  3. Increased gaps between age groups and stratifying patterns in society create a generational disconnect, reducing richness, social contact and understanding.