Abstract for:Bridging technical, ecological and social knowledge in systems design

Sustainable systems design requires the joint consideration of technical, environmental, economic and social aspects to solve complex societal problems. A rising number of concepts and methods for integrated assessment and sustainable planning have been developed in the last decades, which put new demands on the engineering profession and education. The “T-shaped engineer” symbolizes the need for an integration of the traditional depth of technical expertise and new non-technical skills. This paper proposes the use of systems design concepts and methods to link core competencies in engineering design to knowledge from other fields, such as ecology or economics. The conventional functional analysis approach is expanded in this study from a technical focus towards a more integrated perspective that allows for the joint consideration of technical, ecological and social options in engineering design. Participatory systems thinking and system dynamics modeling is used in this study to analyze the hierarchy and flows of functions to meet system requirements. The methodology is applied to the issue of sustainable water management in Cyprus. Causal loop and stock-and-flow diagrams are developed that demonstrate the potential of system dynamics to analyze complex sustainability issues.