2017 House Sustainability Challenge: Round 1 Reflection

In Learning Design.Design Learning, Reflections - IDP 400 by Angela Gregory

Supporting the House Sustainability Challenge– A Journey in Design Thinking.


As a special studies student trained in design thinking, I started need finding with students on campus around what they were observing in their houses. I conducted empathy interviews at events like the skill share, cider press day, and tabling at the Campus Center during lunch hours for four weeks to capture insights.

Issues people brought up related to personal behavior and sustainability in student houses were jotted down on post-its, then brought to future events as a way to build on the conversation that was happening.

It was clear there were recurring themes:
Energy Use, Education & Signage, Personal Freedoms.


The most successful aspect of the independent study was meeting with teams one-on-one, or going to student group meetings. During these moments teams could get direct support, resource ideas relevant to their proposal, and supportive conversation and empathetic questioning that lead to refinement of their ideas.

Joining the Eco-Reps to do an exercise in Design Thinking

During the eco-reps meeting in November, we went around and spoke about the topics people were interested in piloting. Experiences and observations were shared. After hearing all the topics, the group chose one project to generate ideas for as a group. The exercise was similar to ideating in the Design Thinking Process. Talking through all the existing issues related to the topic from the perspective of different houses led to an array of creative solutions.




Lessons Learned

  • Register Teams Early

    We had the greatest impact and positive feedback when meeting with individuals or groups. Encouraging teams to form early and be known will allow for personal resource support and energize teams. A consideration could be made to have a draft deadline so that teams can get crucial feedback and time to make their proposals stronger.

  • Connect with Teams in Person

    Meeting in person helped make the challenge more approachable. This was encouraging to newly formed teams and prompted follow-through.

  • Create one central info hub

    Information about the challenge was posted in various places online. If there is a central go-to location for all the information and updates, less opportunities will be missed.