This article looks into integrative design and how it can be used to make industry more sustainable.

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The last 3 weeks we have looked into integrative design as the leading idea within energy efficiency and how it applies to buildings and mobility. You can find links to all of these articles below.




This week looks into how integrative design can be applied to industry. It is based on the Amory Lovins 2018 paper How big is the energy efficiency resource?

If anyone was in any doubt as to how important it is to make industry more sustainable, Amory’s opening statement would leave you in no doubt:

“Upwards of half, perhaps three-fifths, of the world’s electricity runs motors, chiefly in industry.”

Amory also makes it clear that standard off the shelf sustainable solutions offer far less potential than integrative design can offer:

“The two standard improvements—more-efficient motors and adjustable-speed drives—save 2× less electricity at 5× higher unit cost than a whole-drivesystem retrofit, because 28 of its 35 improvements are free byproducts of the first seven.”

Amory explains that:

Even bigger improvements are available in the most common systems that motors drive, and should be done first to make their motor systems smaller, hence cheaper.

Based upon the fact that half the world’s drivepower runs pumps and fans, Amory points towards evidence which shows the following:

Making their pipes and ducts fat, short, and straight rather than thin, long, and crooked can save 8090+ % of their friction, and typically pay back in less than a year in retrofits and less than zero in newbuilds.

Amory also points towards eye watering inefficiencies in the power sector:

Compounding losses—in power plant, wires, inverter, motor, pump, piping—lose 90% of the power plant’s fuel energy. But reversing those compounding losses into compounding savings, from downstream to upstream, enables one unit of friction or flow saved in the pipe to leverage 10 units of saved fuel, cost, and emissions at the power plant. Thus full global optimization of pipe and duct systems could in principle save, with enticing profits, enough pump and fan energy to displace roughly a fifth of the world’s electricity or half its coal-fired electricity. Probably no official climate assessment includes this major opportunity.”

It should be clear that there is a lot more work to do to communicate the benefits of integrative design so that these opportunities can be seized upon.

Amory points to the similarities between integrative design when applied to vehicles and industry:

Applying integrative design across sectors reveals common themes. The 10× downstream-to-upstream amplification of energy saved in pipe/pump systems is analogous to the 57× amplification of reduced tractive load back to fuel savings in autos.

What you need to know

This article looked into integrative design and how it can be used to make industry more sustainable.

One thing that this entire series on integrative design should have made clear, is that there is an enormous well of untapped potential energy efficiency savings. They are left untapped, because people focus on parts of the system, but not how the system as a whole functions. Integrative design can address this.

We looked at how massive amounts of the world’s electricity is used to power motors.

We also looked at how merely optimising pipework to reduce friction can make a significant difference in saving electricity, which has cascading benefits both upstream and downstream.

Overall, integrative design could be the missing link that is needed to make industry more sustainable. But it is held back by being a design method and not a technology in itself.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to make industry more sustainable?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby


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