Methodology

The G.EN.ESI methodology provides a structured workflow that supports the integration of environmental design activities and management within existing design and engineering departments. The methodology consist of a six step process, each of which are explained below.

Methodology

1. Define your environmental drivers and business objectives

Eco-design is not just about the environment. Environmentally improved products are only sustainable  if they also make good business sense. Make sure that you have a good understanding of the business case for environmentally improving your products, before you start; it’s the best way to secure internal and external support for your efforts. For more information on the business drivers for Eco-design please see Education Centre units ‘Eco-Design and Business’ and ‘Legislation and Regulation’

2. Adopt a life cycle thinking approach to determine what your environmental impacts are

The most significant environmental impacts your products produce may come from unexpected places. Adopting a life cycle perspective (shown in Figure 2) and mapping the environmental impacts related to each lifecycle phase (also known as a life cycle assessment or LCA) will help you identify unexpected impacts. The relative contributions of each life cycle phase will also help you prioritise your efforts, and help you monitor the transfer of impacts from one life cycle phase to another.

There are many tools available to help you incorporate environmental life cycle thinking within your organisation. These range from in-depth quantitative life cycle assessment (LCA) software programmes which map all the environmental inputs and outputs of your product life cycle; through to quick and easy qualitative tools that support concept development activities. Remember that in the early stages, low detail assessments can provide the insights needed. You can always move on to more detailed assessment methods as your company’s environmental knowledge matures. For more information on understanding your life cycle impacts please see Education Centre units, ‘Life Cycle Thinking’ and ‘Life Cycle Assessment’.

3. Aligning environmental ‘hotspots’ with the wider business context and defining your design criteria

The environmental hotspots identified by life cycle activities, must then be aligned with the wider business context. Aligning environmental issues with the business context, will further prioritise your efforts and ensure that your design focus makes good business sense. Knowledge gathering exercises such as literature reviews, competitive benchmarking, and legislative surveys will help you understand the business issues related to your environmental hotspots. These can then be translated into the design criteria that will drive environmentally improved product development.

4. Conduct design development activities to meet design criteria

The practical activities involved in environmental design are much like any other design development process. In the early days your design activities are likely to involve high levels of research and development. Make sure that your project plan accounts for this and that your project goals reflect the resource available in your organisation. It doesn’t matter if achievements are very limited at first, what is important is that you carefully manage and communicate knowledge development, allowing you to build your understanding over time. Developing and sharing tailored environmental guidelines can be very useful during these early stage efforts.

5. Integrate lifecycle checks throughout design development

Design efforts must be checked throughout the process to ensure environmental improvements are being made. These checks will require a lifecycle focus to ensure that reductions in one lifecycle phase do not generate disproportionate increases elsewhere. To ensure that these checks do not disrupt design efforts, it is important that the lifecycle assessment methodology is quick to do and easily understood.

The results of these lifecycle checks may also require you to conduct further research and development activities, in essence returning to stage four. Stages four and five may in fact be repeated multiple times before a design is completed.

6. Review design development process and achievements and review long term strategy

Once the design has been completed you will need to review the development process to understand the environmental achievement that occurred and the outcomes they produced. The review can then be used to identify the company’s current environmental position and adjust the long term strategic goals accordingly. Stage 6 will then naturally feed into Stage 1 for the next generational product development.

This project is co-financed by the European Commission and made possible within the VII Framework Programme FP7-NMP-201 l-SMALL-5 - Grant Agreement Number 280371.