This 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:
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.
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.
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.
Does the user actually need a product? Can we offer a service instead?
Is the user willing to share the product with others?
Can we combine the functions of different products in to one product?
Is it possible to use standard modular components to create a (complete) product range?
Do we really need to use substances that harm the environment?
Is it possible to use renewable materials?
Can we use materials that need less energy to produce?
Do we need to use virgin material?
Is it possible to use materials that can be recycled?
Are there production means available that are less harmful to the environment?
Can we produce the same product by using fewer production steps?
Can we choose cleaner production methods?
Is it possible to reduce or reuse the waste generated during production?
Can we use fewer and less hazardous consumables during production?
Can we reduce the use of packaging material or use less harmful materials?
Have we chosen the most efficient mode of transportation for the product?
Can we improve our logistics?
Can we minimise the product’s energy consumption?
Is it possible to use a cleaner energy sources?
Can we minimise the use of consumables?
Is it possible to use less harmful consumables?
Can we improve the overall reliability of the product?
Is the product easy to maintain and repair?
Is it possible to use standard components to repair the product?
Can we improve the fashionable lifetime of the product?
Can we design a product which the user will not likely part from?
Is it possible to give the product a second life?
Can we fix and reuse (parts of) the product?
Can we recycle the materials used in the product?
Will incineration of the product create low or no emissions and waste?