The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

A Key to an Eco-Functional Home. Sustainability of Living Choices as a Challenge in the Design Process

Heli Mäntylä

Doctoral dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the School of Engineering for public examination and debate in Auditorium E at the Aalto University School of Engineering (Espoo, Finland) on the 16th of December 2011 at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-952-60-4440-8)   [16493 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-952-60-4439-2)

Note: The language of the dissertation is Finnish.


The main focus of the research was to find a solution as to how the choices made during the design process of a house would result in better sustaining everyday life and changes in life circumstances, while causing the least amount of burden on the environment.

The research was multi-methodical: the topic required gathering information and combining it by utilizing many different research methods. The pre-research material was composed of a quantitative survey and a qualitative interview, which were used to canvas sustainable solutions from the residents' perspective. The main research material was acquired through action research conducted as a design cooperative intervention. In this action research, experts were exploring sustainable solutions and tools for housing and house design. The approach was pragmatic: the world is not separate from human experiences and practices.

The theoretical frame of reference was comprised of a theory of expertise. The functionality of housing and defining the concept of eco-efficiency were also studied. However, the introduction of the main concept, eco-functionality, resulted from the design cooperative intervention. In this case, we are talking about theory based research, where the main emphasis is on the reasoning of the researcher, but where the idea that reasoning and conclusions are not born in a vacuum without any theoretical tools and suggestions is accepted.

During the design cooperation intervention it became clear that the environmental impacts and functionality of housing are not separate concepts but should rather be considered simultaneously. The concept of eco-functionality emerged to describe this perspective: it portrays the relationship between functionality and environmental load. Eco-functionality is needed as a new concept since the main ideas of functionality – flexibility, accessibility, easy and effective housing, health and comfort, safety and security, maintenance – were not then nor are now included clearly enough in the concept of eco-efficiency. An Eco-functionality Evaluation Module was created to assess eco-functionality. An Eco-Functional House Planning Guide, the website, and Eco-Functional House Planning Process Chart were also created in the research to aid the planning process.

Keywords: eco-functionality, functionality, housing, sustainable development, sustainable building, eco-efficiency, design

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© 2011 Aalto University

Last update 2012-01-13