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10xE: Factor Ten Engineering

Factor Ten Engineering (10xE) aims to help engineers, architects and their clients attack resource-intensive design problems, such as manufacturing processes, buildings and vehicles, using RMI's whole-system principles in order to produce fundamentally better results.

10xE currently offers design principles and a growing set of case studies—many of them derived from RMI’s experience base. Rather than a rigid formula, 10xE is a set of ideas for shaping the design space and design approaches within it. These ideas will be used by those purchasing or approving design services, as well as design practitioners.

Watch video from Autodesk Sustainability Workshop on 10xE principles

(Watch more videos on RMI TV)

Engineering student and inventor Jim Poss loved devices. And he had an idea for a clever one: the solar-powered trash compactor pictured here.

But, before he attempted to design it, he looked far beyond his idea to understand the workings of the whole trash system.

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Each principle stands on its own, as well as being part of a powerful whole, which can be adapted to any engineering or architecture practice—whether solo, in-house department, or major EPC firm.

Based on experience, we know that engineers and architects can achieve radical resource-efficiency and save their clients’ money by leveraging 10xE principles. In doing so, they play a stronger part in developing solutions to some of the planet’s most challenging problems—energy and climate. They also help adapt their professions to meet the challenges of the future.

Strengthening Design Practice and Pedagogy

10xE was initiated by RMI to strengthen both design pedagogy and design practice. Although an outstanding gain in resource productivity—say, a 5x-to-10x improvement—will always be uncommon, it has been achieved. More common gains of 2x-to-4x are achievable in a high percentage of design situations, though we must emphasize that such results are not for the faint hearted.
Rather, they require bold and gutsy designers and owners willing to question familiar practice and work closely with people from other disciplines.

Real-World Examples

Real examples and real experience are the foundation for this transformation. In recent years, RMI has used whole-system thinking in the redesign of a significant and diverse set of industrial facilities and buildings—some of which were built, and others not.

Tellingly, many of the engineers and architects with whom we worked were frustrated. They had seen many of the same design issues over and again, a situation Amory Lovins calls “infectious repititis.” We all know that avoiding design errors during the design process is cheaper and easier than correcting such errors after the fact

So, RMI began to seek ways to support creative engineers in bringing their innovations to engineering practice and pedagogy. 

Collaborating with the engineering and other design professions to develop design principles and a collection of case studies on high-performance integrative design, we plan to support both the current and the next generation of engineers with tools for integrative design.

We hope that these new, whole-system thinkers will stand out in their profession and that each in their own way will develop far more sustainable and profitable solutions than today’s typical practice.

Case Studies

Autodesk, AEC Headquarters

Autodesk’s Headquarters building was a “triple win”: design and construction costs were below target (benefiting both the design/build team and owner); designer and contractor profits exceeded targets; and the building achieved LEED-CI Platinum and all other goals. Also, the building demonstrates several principles of Factor-Ten Engineering. Read More

Integrated Project Design: Lovins' GreenHome

Amory Lovins’s state-of-the-art green home and indoor growing space at 7,100 feet is remarkably energy efficient, includes several renewable technologies, and has no conventional heating and cooling system. Also, it demonstrates several principles of Factor-Ten Engineering. Read More

Big Pipes, Small Pumps: Interface, Inc. Factor Ten Engineering Case Study

This story of Interface Inc.’s Shanghai plant illustrates the pitfalls of the conventional design process—and the remarkable gains that are possible by rethinking basic assumptions. This paper describes how the lead designer Jan Schilham created a radical new layout with shorter, fatter pipes and smaller pumps to save nearly 90 percent of the energy—with lower capital costs. Several Factor Ten Engineering principles are highlighted in Schilham's design process. Read More

Global Ecology Center at Stanford University: Factor Ten Engineering Case Study

In 2002, the Carnegie Institution began planning a facility, called the Global Ecology Center (GEC), which would become known as one of the most energy-efficient laboratories in the nation. Located on the Stanford University campus, the 11,000-square-foot building was built to house the university’s new Department of Global Ecology, a place for students and researchers to work at the cutting edge of their fields. Read More