To designers and engineers unfamiliar with sustainable design
As was discussed in the opening section of this guide, sustainability can mean many things to people. For perhaps the majority of designers it doesn’t actually mean anything in particular. Then there are the engineers who have the impression that it is “touchy-feely,” totally optional, not their problem, and too expensive.
Instead of trying to go through all of the aspects of sustainable design, describing functional units, midpoint categories, and so on, it is best to focus on common values. For instance, it may make more sense to talk about sustainable design as a set of tools designed to identify and decrease waste. This waste can come in the form of excess energy, pollutants, material ending up in landfills, and other non-valuable by-products generated over the life cycle of an item. Most environmental impact metrics actually represent explicit or inherent waste in the system, so comparing product designs can usually lead to the identification of lower waste options.
In certain sectors, sustainable design represents a way to incorporate regulatory considerations in the design process. When certain chemicals or materials can not be used, such as in the case of the EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), LCA tools can help identify useful alternatives that do not have the same hazardous impacts.
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