Design for the Environment

Design For The Environment


There are numerous strategies that may be employed by designers, manufacturers, organizations and governments to deal with the issue of sustainable development.


Clean Technology focuses on improving the environmental impact of a specific technology. This may entail an end-of-pipe approach to reduce the amount of waste and pollution from a manufacturing system such as chemicals discharged from a textiles dyeing process into a river system, or it could be a more sophisticated approach such as that involved with clean coal technology.


Green Design is concerned with aspects of the design of products to reduce the impact of their use and/or disposal on the environment. In this way a green design strategy normally focuses on one or two environmental objectives such as using recyclable materials for ensuring a product  is more energy efficient.


Life Cycle Analysis or Eco-design is a more comprehensive strategy as it involves reducing total environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle (from cradle-to-grave). Life cycle analysis is a more difficult strategy to implement and requires a radical approach to the design process. It is not easy to generate suitable legislation to promote life cycle analysis in comparison to clean technology and green design because LCA is  a more holistic approach and legislation normally only deals with specific aspects of the cycle such as disposal of products or energy efficiency.


An even more radical approach is Sustainable Design. This strategy involves divergent thinking to arrive at an alternative technical solution when designing a product rather than using life cycle analysis to reduce the impact of an existing solution. For example, with the design of a house rather than just looking at energy efficiency measures an architect may consider a radically different approach to the heat requirements such as using bales of straw for wall insulation and optimizing the solar energy gains. In this way sustainable design not only influences the environmental credentials of a product it also impacts on social and economic considerations.


An even broader strategy is Sustainable Innovation which is based on a systems approach to reduce the environmental impact of products. For example, if electric cars are to substantially replace petrol (gas) cars not only must the electric car be designed to appeal to car purchasers in terms of performance and aesthetics a whole national system of charging points needs to be created which is outside the control of the designer of the car.


It can be appreciated that the timescales related to the success of approaches set out above will vary. Green design is relatively simple to implement in most instances as it involves changes to only certain aspects of the design of a product and so can be put into place quite quickly i.e. a matter of a few years. Eco-design will take longer as it more complex and requires changes to all aspects of the way a product is designed and manufactured but the environmental benefits are greater than green design. Sustainable design and sustainable innovation will take even longer to implement, typically 10 to 20 years depending on the context of the problem, but the benefits to the environment will be much more long-lasting.


Links to Assessment Statements (IB Design Technology Subject Guide): 1.1.14; 3.1.1; 3.1.3; 3.1.5; 3.2.1; 3.2.2; 3,2,3; 3,2,4; 3,2,10; 3,2,11; 12.1.1; 12.1.9; 12.1.10; 12.1.12; 12.2.2.




Roy (2006) T307 Block 3: New Product Development and Sustainable Design, Open University, UK



Phil Shakespeare 22/08/2010



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