Topic 3: Green design

Green design involves taking a “cradle to grave” approach to the design of a product by considering the adverse impacts of the product at all stages of its life (pre-production, production, distribution, including packaging, utilization and disposal) and seeking to minimize those impacts.

3.1 Principles of green design

Define green design, renewable resources and non-renewable resources.

Outline the reasons for green design.
Consider consumer pressure and legislation.

List design objectives for green products.
Objectives include:
• increasing efficiency in the use of materials, energy and other resources
• minimizing damage or pollution from the chosen materials
• reducing to a minimum any long-term harm caused by use of the product
• ensuring that the planned life of the product is most appropriate in environmental terms and that the product functions efficiently for its full life
• taking full account of the effects of the end disposal of the product
• ensuring that the packaging and instructions encourage efficient and environmentally friendly use
• minimizing nuisances such as noise or smell
• analysing and minimizing potential safety hazards.

Discuss the impact of “take back” legislation on designers and manufacturers of cars, refrigerators and washing machines.

Explain how people can be broadly classified according to their attitudes to green issues.
People’s attitudes to green issues vary. Eco-warriors actively demonstrate on environmental issues. Eco-champions champion environmental issues within organizations. Eco-fans enthusiastically adopt environmentally friendly practices as consumers. Eco-phobes actively resent talk of environmental protection.

3.2 Life cycle analysis

Define life cycle analysis.

Describe how life cycle analysis provides a framework within which clean production technologies and green design can be evaluated holistically for a specific product.

List the key stages in life cycle analysis.
Pre-production, production, distribution including packaging, utilization and disposal.

List the major environmental considerations in life cycle analysis.
Water, soil pollution and degradation, air contamination, noise, energy consumption, consumption of natural resources, pollution and effect on ecosystems.

Describe how the life cycle stages and the environmental considerations can be organized into an environmental impact assessment matrix.

Analyse the environmental impact of refrigerators, washing machines and cars using an environmental impact assessment matrix.

Explain why elements of the matrix may differ in importance according to the particular design context.

Identify the roles and responsibilities of the designer, manufacturer and user at each life cycle stage of a product.

Describe one example of a situation where life cycle analysis identifies conflicts that have to be resolved through prioritization.

Explain that life cycle analysis is targeted at particular product categories.
Life cycle analysis is targeted at products with a high environmental impact and in the global marketplace. It is then impossible for companies to argue that their products are being made uncompetitive. Life cycle analysis also targets companies with the resources to invest in R&D.

Explain why life cycle analysis is not widely used in practice.
Life cycle analysis is not used for many products. However, in the re-innovation of the design of a product or its manufacture, specific aspects may be changed after considering the design objectives for green products. Thus the materials selected may be changed to make them more environmentally friendly, for example, wood from sustainable forests or the selection of a less toxic varnish. A product may be distributed differently or its packaging may be redesigned.

Describe the reasons for the introduction of eco-labelling schemes.

Explain how eco-labelling reflects life cycle analysis of certain product categories.

Compare the objectives of two different eco-labelling schemes.
Consider approaches to eco-labelling in Europe, Australia and the United States (US).

Explain how eco-labelling and energy-labelling schemes can help consumers to compare potential purchases.

3.3 Strategies for green design

Define design for manufacture (DfM).

Describe why DfM can be a dominating constraint on the design brief and state that it can be conveniently split into design for materials, design for process and design for assembly.

Define design for materials, design for process and design for assembly.

Discuss three strategies that designers could employ for DfM.
Strategies include: minimizing the number of components, using standard components, designing components that are multifunctional or for multi-use, designing parts for ease of fabrication, minimizing handling, and using standard sub-assemblies.

Describe how designers can modify the environmental impact of the production, use and disposal of their product through careful consideration at the design stage.

Define reuse, repair, reconditioning and recycling.

Describe how reuse, repair, reconditioning and recycling contribute to the optimization of resource utilization.

Describe how the strategies of reuse, repair and recycling can be applied to the design of products, including packaging.
For example, consider disposable cameras, vacuum cleaners and car tyres.

List three material groups that can be easily and economically recycled.
Consider thermoplastics, metals and glass.

Describe how many products comprise several different materials, and state that these materials have to be separated to enable recycling.

Discuss the issues underpinning the economic recycling of materials.
Consider collection, energy and processing considerations, redistribution.

Define design for disassembly.

Explain that design for disassembly is one aspect of design for materials and will facilitate recycling of products on disposal.

Discuss two strategies that designers could employ to design for disassembly.
Designing components made from one material. Using thermoplastic adhesives that lose their properties when reheated. Designing snap fittings instead of welding and glueing.