Eco-design methodologies are becoming an important tool for all designers to help implement the development of ecologically friendly products to satisfy society’s grater environmental consciousness. Many of these methodologies were devised in the mid 90s. Through the use of eco-design methodologies, designers are able to integrate environmental considerations with industrial product requirements. Systematic methods of analyzing the product’s entire life cycle, the use of materials, manufacturing process used, the functionality and end of life are all taken into consideration by design methodologies, though not all by the same ones. To become an environmentally friendly designer, it is necessary to be conversant with some of these methodologies. This paper outlines some of the most important ones. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) breaks down every part of the material and manufacturing stages to give an environmental report about each component within a product. Life Cycle Design builds upon LCA by looking at the functionality of the product. The two used together create a systematic way of evaluating environmental consequences from product design.
One of the key factors influencing the degradation of the environment is man’s ever increasing demand for material goods, which society often deems to be a benchmark for measuring human development and living standards. The production of nearly all mass manufactured products has the likely effect of causing some environmental harm . Industrial and Product designers plays a key role in fulfilling the need for new products to cater for this exponential growth in demand and therefore must be under an obligation to minimize environmental damage which arises from their design decisions. The 1987 Brundtland Report  for the United Nations outlined for the first time the interrelationship between human development and the environment which laid the foundations for the intergovernmental treaties on environmental sustainability including the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and 2002 Johannesburg Earth Summit. These, as well as political pressure groups, have pushed political opinion and raised the consciousness of the public and designers to take action to be as environmentally friendly as possible to help protect the planet. From a design point view, over the last few years a number of methodologies have been developed to address negative environmental impact of a product. It is possible to implement ways of approaching the design process with an ecological imperative which are often economically beneficial to manufacturing processes as well as reducing environmental impact.
2. Life Cycle Assessment
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is perhaps the most important backbone of eco-design methodology. LCA models the complex interaction between a product and the environment from ‘cradle to grave’. It is also known as Life Cycle Analysis or Eco-balance. By the mid 1990s LCA became popularly used as a way of helping designers assess the impact of a product on the environment and human health. This led to the definition of Environmental Requirements of Industrial Products (ERIP) being clarified with environmental impact assessments being generated through the use of LCAs to assess the input and output between the technosphere and the geosphere/biosphere . An LCA is achieved through creating a systematic inventory of every aspect of the product’s resource consumption, emissions and non-material related impacts such as land use to generate a break down of the product, generating a point system that can be cross referenced against comparative products’ environmental credentials as well defining its individual impact. LCA aims to analyze the contribution of life-cycle stages to the overall environmental load, usually with the aim of prioritizing product or processes improvements. LCA is a powerful tool that can be used by government to generate legislation. The International Organization for Standardisation’s ISO14040 series of standards and the EU ‘Integrated Product Policy’ is directly related to the use of LCA . It also informs consumer choice and manufacturing to improve products. The first stage of undertaking an LCA is compiling the inventory and the second is evaluating the findings. When all aspects of the product’s composition are environmentally assessed, the combined findings can be used to work out total environmental impact. Even for those products whose environmental burdens are relatively low, the LCA should help to identify those stages in production processes and in use which cause or have the potential to cause pollution, and those which have a heavy material or energy demand. By breaking down all aspects of a product’s production to generate an environmental profile, it enhances analysis into what might be changed for greater sustainability. An LCA report is mostly generated by the use of complex computer modeling using packages such as Sima Pro 5.0 software . Using the LCA at the design stage can improve appropriate ecological choice.
2.1. Interpretation and Problems
Due to the extensive nature of a LCA, it can be costly and time consuming. LCA can often be far from straightforward in determining which material/process has the greatest benefit over another one. Evaluation of the results can be problematic as value judgments have to be made about what does the greater environmental damage, when the damage is fragmented into different aspects of environmental degradation which have to be assessed individually having little similarity in the nature of their consequences. For instance, a manufacturing process that has a heavy demand on water supply and one that has a heavy demand on electricity, or a process that leads to several tonnes of SO2 being emitted compared to a process that releases only a few kilograms of a far more toxic chemical to produce the same product generates a difficult comparison of environmental values, as both processes damage the environment in different ways . This can lead to an indecisive conclusion about which one causes the greater overall environmental degradation. When many factors are combined from all the different aspects of a product, it can lead to an extremely complicated set of results that can be ambiguous in interpretations. But for all its problems it provides a very powerful tool in determining products environmental impact.
2.2. Eco-Indicator 99
Work undertaken in the Netherlands to achieve sustainable consumption and production has led to development of a comprehensive set of policy instruments known as Integrated Product Policy (IPP). At the centre of IPP is the Product Orientated Environmental Management System (POEM), which aims to improve systemically the product’s environmental sustainability by integrating all aspects of its environmental considerations into strategic design and managerial decisions. POEM is a development of the Environmental Management System (EMS) that focuses on the product’s design and redesign. The traditional LCA is seen as the bedrock of EMS and though it is a good tool to guide decision making, it needed to be simplified to improve its uptake and use by designers. Partly because of the need to fulfill the IPP legislation an alternative LCA needed to be generated which could be adopted easily by manufacturing and design companies. Building upon the use of Eco-Indicator 95 methodology and widening its remit, Eco-Indicator 99 methodology has been specifically built to create what is still a state of the art user friendly system for product designers to use for conducting an LCA by breaking down the results into Eco-indicators .
3. Life Cycle Design
The Life Cycle Design (LCD) system was formulated in the late 1990s as a response to the growing demand for methodology to help produce products with a low environmental impact by incorporating eco-design thinking more effectively into the design process . This design approach takes into consideration all phases of the product's life-cycle, from concept development to retirement, analyzing and harmonizing determining factors such as quality, cost, production feasibility, requirements of use, servicing and environmental aspects . It is considered that the leading LCD principles are.
· The extension of the design horizon: from product design to the systemic design of all product life-cycle stages;
· A new design reference: from product design to product function design .
Using LCD the designer/manufacture is no longer just creating a product, but an over arching product system, looks at an entire process that characterizes the life cycle of the product and related activities, viewed as a interconnected entity. LCD assesses the function of the physical product, interpreted as functional units, with a LCA such as Eco-Indicator 99 to calculate reductions in environmental impact, demonstrating how the reduction is achieved. Function, an integral aspect of design, is now embraced as a key component within an ecological design methodology. For instance a new part for a car will not only be assessed as to how environmentally friendly it is based on its life cycle, but this will then affect the car’s overall environmental functionality through improved mileage, aerodynamics and so on to create an overarching environmental assessment of the part integrated within a product system. This can lead to a part scoring lower in an environmental evaluation when compared to a similar part’s life cycle, having the net effect of being more environmentally beneficial as it brings environmental benefits through its functionality to a much bigger product system life cycle that it is placed in. LCD has fairly clear theoretical framework, though there has been limited take up by designers. In a survey of Italian designers, the majority were unsure what LCD is, only a very few making use of it .
3.1. Guidelines for Life Cycle Design
Guidelines for LCD are the tools to direct design decision making process from the brief, to the concept, to product development, in accordance with objective of reducing environmental damage. The guidelines should indicate most environmentally sustainable design decision. LCD’s guidelines are sometimes ambiguous, due to the complexity of the readings as well as having to take into account ever-evolving nature of changes in knowledge such as parameters related to sustainability. General guidelines could include criteria concepts such as:
: A representation of clearly separated areas of environmental concern, clearly understandable by a designer; as designers are not trained environmentalists.
: A relative environmental priority assessment among the various criteria.
: A grouping of guidelines so that the criteria head various set of design guidelines.
Guidelines for LCD go from the generally applicable theoretical ones, to the more specific. Guidelines for any conceptualization and development of a product need to be adapted and generated to account for its typology and environment by prioritizing guidelines according to the product’s typology of potential environmental impact.
Designers need to be aware of growing eco-design methodologies to not only fulfill government legislation, but as a response to consumer demand for greener products, as well as cost savings that can be found by reductions in manufacturing and material use. Methodologies should take into account the environmental properties of the materials, manufacturing phases, recyclables and the functional use of the product. Several approaches are useful for this, such as LCA (Eco-Indicator 99), LCD, Eco-effectiveness, Cradle to Grave, Biomimicry and material section using programs like CES. Many of the methodologies work well in conjunction with each other. Eco-design methodology can be hard to implement and requires commitment from designers to want to find ecologically sound design solutions. Without action from designers it is unlikely that radical positive environmental change will be possible.
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