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  Consult   Design   Present
  Symbiosis in Development

Symbiosis in Development (SiD) is a methodology for solving complex, multi-faceted problems using systems-thinking, network theory and life cycle understanding. It combines theory, method, practice in one holistic system that allows different disciplines to work together, evaluate sustainability spectrum-wide, and find symbiotic solutions quickly.

SiD guides designers and decision-makers in incorporating problems beyond material and energy use, extending to include social, ecological, economic, and political issues. If we ever hope to achieve sustainability, we must optimize for all of these competing areas of concern at the same time –  and this is what SiD can help do. 

SiD has resulted in many unique solutions that have been proven to excel over solutions developed in a traditional way, in the fields of business strategy, agriculture, the built environment, industry, knowledge management and policy development.

Symbiosis in Development


  How does it work?

The problem of achieving a sustainable society can be seen as a multi-faceted prism, with each face representing a different category of concern (material and energy use, societal well-being, economics, etc.).

Many of today’s sustainable design solutions focus on just one or two of the facets meaning that they inevitably miss parts of the problem and deliver a sub-optimal set of recommendations. For example, lower carbon impact is frequently traded for greater human or ecological impact. This cannot be considered sustainable. 

SiD changes this by not only providing ways to build comprehensive and integrated indicator sets, but it goes beyond mere physical based sustainability and creates understanding about sustainability on a system-level, though time, space and context.

SiD is a flexible methodology that allows itself to be adjusted to the needs of any project. It has a modular structure that allows the particulars of any given challenge to be completely integrated. Symbiosis in Development also allows the inclusion of the limited-domain tools currently used for certain evaluations or certifications, such as LEED, LCA, Cradle 2 Cradle, and BREEAM. These tools take on greater meaning when applied in the context of broader issues, leading to conclusions that they would not have revealed if they had been used on their own. 

SiD consists of three core components:

The SiD Theory
The SiD theory lays the foundation for its operation, ethics and reasoned approach. It deals with approaching problems on a system level primarily and achieving sustainable cycles in that system. It expands into environmental ethics, network theory and other necessary components.

The SiD Method
The SiD Method consists of a detailed step-by-step approach to system-level goalsetting, analysis of systems, optimization and system level synthesis and evaluatation. 

The SiD Process
The SiD Process details how the method is unfolded in time and how different disciplines come together to work on a problem together, including stakeholders and potential third parties. The SiD process combines   bottom-up as well as top-down approaches at the same time in an iterative and collaborative working environment.

Three dimensions
SiD recognises the need to investigate systems in context, time and space simultaneously. Several tools help to develop this perspective both in a creative and an analytical assement way.

Three levels of impact
SiD recognises three levels of impact: a direct, first degree level, an indirect , secondary level, consisting of life cycle effects and others and a third level, which we call the system level. SiD tries to optimize the third level effects first as these are in most cases several orders of magnitude more impactful than second or first level effects.

Here at Except, we are in an ongoing process of using and refining SiD. We use SiD not only to develop projects but also to develop new or expand upon existing methodological tools. For instance, it can be used to derive comprehensive sets of integrated sustainability indicators for tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

We've published a few of the tools developed for and with SiD below for illustration purposes, among which the Trias Architectura, SiD Life Cycle Rocket and the ELSIA Relationship system.

These are covered under the Creative Commons BY-SA license.

  SiD sustainability Definition

Sustainability is historically ill-defined, resulting in many problems with working on the topic. Except has formulated a definition using its Symbiosis in Development development method. It helps safeguard the word from deterioration and provides new avenues for fundamental sustainable development.

An important difference with existing definitions are:

  • The SiD definition doesn't just describe what sustainability leads to (such as the Brundtland definition), but also what it is and how it can be achieved.
  • Sustainability is the property of a dynamic system, not of objects.
  • That sustainability is a fixed state of a dynamic entity.
  • That there always needs to be a system boundary when speaking of sustainability.

The Symbiosis in Development sustainability definition:

"Sustainability is a state of a complex, dynamic system. In this state a system can continue to flourish without leading to its internal collapse or requiring inputs from outside its defined system boundaries.

Applied to our civilization, this state is consistent with an equitable and healthy society, as well as thriving ecosystems and a beautiful planet."

- A.N.A. Bosschaert & E.M. Gladek, 2011, v3.0


  Selection of SiD tools
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SiD Indicator Hierarchy
SiD Indicator Hierarchy

ELSIA Relationship system
SiD ELSIA Relationship system

SiD Indicator Hierarchy
SiD Process example

Trias Architectura
SiD Trias Architectura

Sid Life cycle Rocket LCA LCI
SiD Life Cycle Rocket