In essence, engineering is concerned with the creation of products and processes. Engineers need to know how to make things with desired properties. The traditional properties of interest have included performance, reliability and cost. Reducing the environmental impact of new products and processes is of increasing importance. Increasingly stringent regulation, widespread public concern and new corporate environmental policies motivate this environmental interest. Of special importance for implementing environmentally conscious, 'green' design are appropriate knowledge, tools, production methods and incentives that can be applied during the design process.
There is a growing body of knowledge in the form of design heuristics and tools for green design. With its focus of system-wide resource flows, industrial ecology is a major source of such approaches. However, economic and engineering issues predominate in green design. Moreover, many methods used for environmental analysis are not appropriate for design decision making. Ecological inventories and conventional product life cycle assessment operate with data needs and time requirements that make them difficult to incorporate into the design process, especially during the important conceptual design stage. Even conventional tools such as stochastic modeling and decision analysis can inhibit the conceptual design phase or vastly lengthen the time taken to consider each alternative. Ideally, green design tools would be 'invisible' to the designer save as additional attributes to consider in evaluating a design. We must select the places to intervene carefully so as to reduce complexity and be certain that the new tools and environmentally conscious objectives are appropriate and useful. In particular, designers need useful environmental standards representations, access to the latest technology opportunities, easily applied rating systems for design impact on the environment, and tools to help assess life cycle implications, including accounting systems to reflect the full environmental costs of new designs.
Was this article helpful?