Designing for environment

Designing for the environment (DFE) is the systematic consideration during design of issues associated with environmental safety and health over a product life cycle. It can be thought of as the migration of traditional pollution prevention concepts upstream into the development phase of products before production and use. The goal of DFE is to enable design teams to create eco-efficient products without compromising their cost, quality and schedule constraints. It must be integrated into the development process, from the analysis of customer needs and establishment of product requirements to the verification these requirements have been fulfilled.

Some guidelines are: 1) [material recovery and reuse] avoid composite materials, standardize materials and fasteners, specify recyclable materials; 2) [disassembly] facilitate means of component separation, avoid permanent attachments of dissimilar materials such as welds; 3) [simplicity] develop common designs for multi-functional parts; 4) [waste minimization] reduce product size and weight, reduce packaging; 5) [energy conservation] reduce energy used in production and product power consumption; 6) [material conservation] design multi-functional products and parts, specify recycled and renewable materials, use re-manufactured components, design for product longevity and performance, design for closed loop recycling.

Sony has introduced the first version of a television set with easy disassembly/recycling characteristics. Generally it has developed new moulding and tool technologies for its TV products which reduce material usage and varieties of plastics used. 100% recycled materials are used for the chassis frame, frame-retardants are halogen free, lacquers are water-based, and the stand-by electricity demand has been cut by more than 50%.

Volvo has established an Environmental Priorities System (EPS) for the manufacture of its motor vehicles, with environment, safety and quality as the three core values. It has tested technically equivalent constructions of car bodies made of plastic composite and galvanized steel. The galvanized steel lost points because its heavier weight increased fuel consumption; overall the plastic construction proved to have a lower overall environmental impact. In the area of recycling vehicle components, the application of life cycle design has driven the reuse and recycling rate to over 90% in two test models.

A small number of generic software packages are appearing on the market to assist companies starting to design for the environment. The number of universities and institutes with programmes on designing for sustainability is growing rapidly. In the USA they include the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the Carnegie Mellon University, University of Tennessee, the University of Michigan; in Australia, the National Centre for Design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT); in the Netherlands, Delft University and the University of Amsterdam; in Canada, the University of Windsor has set up the Environmentally Conscious Design and Manufacturing Lab.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 15: Life on Land