Design For Sustainability Guidelines

How To Use Environmental Material Properties

Lifecycle design strategies wheelThis section of Matbase hands you some basic and easy to use guidelines to help you get started with design for sustainability. For background information on design for sustainability, EcoDesign, Design for the environment or Lifecycle design we would like to refer to the sites and manuals in our Links section regarding this subject.

The design guidelines are grouped in 8 strategies as shown in the Lifecycle strategies wheel. The wheel represents the product lifecycle and illustrates the continuous process of sustainable design, taking you to a higher level every cycle.

Before getting started, keep in mind that sustainable design is no exact science. The numbers are indicative and it’s all about relative improvements. Some of the strategies may be incompatible. Therefore every project should start with taking the following steps:

1. Determine which goals you would like or need to achieve

What are your motives to take up sustainable design? Are they of economical, social or legislative nature. Assess what specific impact your motives have on your future designs and set your goals.

2. Determine the most feasible and effective strategies

Determine the importance, the level of complexity and the probable level of improvement for all aspects of the product’s lifecycle. For instance, an average truck will make more than 1 million km’s. After that it will have a second and possible third life in a different part of the world. Especially during its third life the maintenance will be kept to a minimum just to keep the truck running. Therefore emissions and fuel consumption are the main issues to address. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) on an existing or competitive product can help you assess the focus of your efforts. You can plot the results of the LCA on the strategic wheel.

3. Make a selection of strategies and realize your goals

Now you know what your focus should be, you can match them with one or more EcoDesign strategies. Use your findings to weigh these strategies and apply them accordingly.

A standard approach is to constantly evaluate your results. Only when comparing the new design with the initial situation, you will know if your efforts have had the result you were aiming for. You can plot the new design on the EcoDesign strategy wheel against the initial design. Consider which strategies were effective, which were not so effective and try to assess where more improvements can be made the next design cycle. Sustainable design is a continuous process.

0) New Concept Development

0a) Dematerialisation

Does the user actually need a product? Can we offer a service instead?

0b) Shared use of product

Is the user willing to share the product with others?

0c) Integration of functions

Can we combine the functions of different products in to one product?

0d) Functional optimization of product (components)

Is it possible to use standard modular components to create a (complete) product range?

1) Select Low-impact Materials

1a) Non-hazardous materials

Do we really need to use substances that harm the environment?

1b) Non-exhaustable materials

Is it possible to use renewable materials?

1c) Low energy content materials

Can we use materials that need less energy to produce?

1d) Recycled materials

Do we need to use virgin material?

1e) Recyclable materials

Is it possible to use materials that can be recycled?

3) Optimization Of Production Techniques

3a) Alternative production techniques

Are there production means available that are less harmful to the environment?

3b) Fewer production processes

Can we produce the same product by using fewer production steps?

3c) Low/clean energy consumption

Can we choose cleaner production methods?

3d) Low generation of waste

Is it possible to reduce or reuse the waste generated during production?

3e) Few/clean production consumables

Can we use fewer and less hazardous consumables during production?

4) Efficient Distribution System

4a) Less/cleaner packaging

Can we reduce the use of packaging material or use less harmful materials?

4b) Efficient transport mode

Have we chosen the most efficient mode of transportation for the product?

4c) Efficient logistics

Can we improve our logistics?

5) Reduction Of Environmental Impact During The User Stage

5a) Low energy consumption

Can we minimise the product’s energy consumption?

5b) Cleaner energy sources

Is it possible to use a cleaner energy sources?

5c) Few consumables needed during use

Can we minimise the use of consumables?

5d) Clean consumables during use

Is it possible to use less harmful consumables?

6) Optimization Of Initial Lifetime

6a) Reliability and durability

Can we improve the overall reliability of the product?

6b) Easy maintenance and repair

Is the product easy to maintain and repair?

6c) Modular product structure

Is it possible to use standard components to repair the product?

6d) Classic Design

Can we improve the fashionable lifetime of the product?

6e) User taking care of the product

Can we design a product which the user will not likely part from?

7) Optimization Of End-of-life System

7a) Reuse of product

Is it possible to give the product a second life?

7b) Remanufacturing/refurbishing

Can we fix and reuse (parts of) the product?

7c) Recycling of materials

Can we recycle the materials used in the product?

7d) Clean incineration

Will incineration of the product create low or no emissions and waste?