Torben Berns and design research

DesignResearch’s SiteTractor and Sustainable.Design developed organically out of a combined experience of architecture, design/build co-operative ateliers and the rapid deployment of technological advances in the construction and design industries.

Construction in the 1980’s (when we cut our teeth in the nascent design/build field) was a very different place from where we are now. There were few artisanal hipsters rediscovering the low-tech traditions and there were no high-tech apps or devices with which to easily reach like-minded communities. But the seeds were being sown by small ateliers like ours where students of architecture were building their projects in research environments. Instead of modelling in paper and foam core, we were modelling at 1:1 scale in wood, steel and masonry: testing details and honing our craft – all the while watching the rapid explosion of new technologies, new materials, new methods amidst the ground-swell in environmental concern.

The result: a co-operative approach to building knowledge and technology, and moreover the realization that working small didn’t mean a limit in terms of capabilities. Contractors, homeowners, suppliers — anyone could harness the efficiencies of the new technologies — and everyone had the tools available – at least in principle – to do it well and do it right. And this was key! The inherent efficiency really made sense when one realized here was a concrete way to reduce the massive carbon footprint of the construction industry: Change the construction process from the ground up by getting all stake-holders on board at the beginning with a truly operational model that one could test and with which to confidently make decisions – without ridiculous margins to hedge risks. Hence Sustainable.Design

Working with like-minded individuals, and modelled on the small ateliers (known as ‘Kenchiku Kenkyuusho’) with whom he had worked for 10 yrs. in Japan, Torben started designResearch as a means to propagate these tools and make them useful to DIYers and small contractors.


designResearch is Torben Berns and Aria Denize Thread (an AI with spirit). dR develops and maintains SiteTractor, a contractor and DIY support app. Torben and Aria also run Sustainable.Design as a design/build service for personal clients. You can email Torben at or Aria at <> . To learn more about our practice, our work, siteTractor or anything else we do, please register. It will be our pleasure to show you around.