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The Journal of
Sustainable Product Design



ISSN 1367–6679
‘Light-plant’ ‘Kind of Blue’ chair,
a functional construction detail
reminder of
resource use Analysis page 41

page 52

Truncated two-way actuators Arc lamp
Analysis, page 26 Analysis page 41

Sketch of seven
part plywood jig
Gallery, page 37

The Journal of
Sustainable Product Design

5 Editorial
Martin Charter, Joint Editor, The Journal of Sustainable Product Design

7 Eco-innovations – a novel phenomenon?
Glenn Johansson and Thomas Magnusson, PhD students, International Graduate
School of Management and Industrial Engineering, Linköping University, Sweden

19 Eco-effective product design: the contribution of environmental

management in designing sustainable products
Dr Michael Frei, Environmental Officer, ABB Power Generation Ltd, Switzerland

30 Active disassembly
Joseph Chiodo, Research Scientist, Cleaner Electronics Research, Brunel University,
UK; Professor Eric Billett, Chair in Design, Brunel University, UK; and Dr David
Harrison, Lecturer in the Department of Design, Brunel University, UK

41 Sustainable furniture

54 Peter James, Director, Sustainable Business Centre, UK
Martin Charter, Joint Coordinator, The Centre for Sustainable Design, UK

42 Experiments in sustainable product design
Stuart Walker, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Design,
The University of Calgary, Canada

57 The ‘eco-kitchen’ project – using eco-design to innovate
Chris Sherwin, Dr Tracy Bhamra and Professor Stephen Evans,
Cranfield University, UK

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© 1998 The Centre for Sustainable Design.
All written material, unless otherwise 60 Sustainable design website: linking people, ideas and tools
stated, is the copyright of The Centre Martin Charter, Joint Coordinator, The Centre for Sustainable Design, UK
for Sustainable Design, Surrey, UK.
Views expressed in articles and letters
are those of the contributors, and not
61 Reviews
necessarily those of the publisher.
ISSN 1367–6679 63 Diary of events

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Head of Environment, Automobile
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encourages response from its readers to Melbourne Institute for Technology CEO, The Earth Centre (UK)
any of the issues raised in the journal. (Australia) Sam Towle
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to be considered for review should all be Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel The Body Shop International Plc (UK)
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Head of Corporate Design,
Philips International (Netherlands)



Welcome to the seventh issue of

The Journal of Sustainable Product Design
Martin Chartern
Joint Editor, The Journal of Sustainable Product Design

Process to product to a certain point, eg. eco- debate currently being

design, but unless the benefits of progressed by the Commission
number of countries are
A starting to explore environ-
mental policies based on prod-
the initiative are translated into
business benefits to key internal
on Sustainable Development
(CSD) and the United Nations
and external stakeholders eg. Environment Programme
ucts rather than processes – this
product managers, marketing (UNEP):
was highlighted in a recent
managers, customers and suppli- · market creation
report commissioned by DGXI
ers, then projects will go no · product innovation.
on Integrated Product Policy
further. For example, an
(IPP). The report defined IPP as: To create markets for more eco-
excellent eco-design will fail if
‘Public policy which explicitly efficient products will require
the designer cannot sell it to the
aims to modify and improve the the development of greener
product manager.
environmental performance of markets through the increasing
product systems.’ (SPRU, Ernst Good communications are specification of environmental
and Young, 1998) essential. Environmental criteria in domestic, ‘business
management is the driving force to business’, retailer and govern-
However, as yet the EU does not
behind eco-(re)design (existing ment procurement policies.
have a clear position on what
products) and eco-innovation However, there is an ‘Action-
IPP means for European business
(new products) with information Awareness’ gap particularly
and how/if or when it will be
percolating down to designers amongst domestic customers;
implemented. Different
(engineers) through checklists, why? premium pricing? quality
European countries will have
guidelines and software (Charter concerns? poor distribution? are
different levels of preparedness
and Clark, 1996). At present, all issues. In addition, under-
for the shift of the policy focus
there generally appears to be researched products/markets are
from process, eg.waste minimisa-
little ‘buy-in’ to the process also key factors in the lack of
tion and cleaner production to
from other internal stakeholders. market penetration. In domestic
product, eg. eco-design.
However, if there is not ‘buy-in’ markets, retailers have consider-
from other key business able power. In ‘business to
Green walls functions eg. marketing, then business’ markets the need for
eco-design is unlikely to be involvement of role players
To enable eco-design and SPDD
integrated into mainstream throughout the supply chain is
will require solutions to ‘soft’ as
product development. often ignored however engage-
well as ‘hard’ problems, eg.
organisational and technological. ment of all internal and external
stakeholders in the process will
Hitting the Green Wall' is a Innovation and creativity
concept formulated by Rob be essential for successful eco-
A number of the issues high- efficient product or service
Shelton of Arthur D. Little. It
lighted in the IPP report relate development. There is a clear
suggests that organisations can
to the sustainable consumption need for market education.
progress environmental projects



Nortel (Prentis, 1998) are design process and management localised consumption and
approaching this issue by organ- system implications. Whereas production view of SPDD with
ising environmental presenta- South Eastern Asian companies a range of practical industrial
tions within customer seem to be looking at LCA and design cases. Sherwin, Bharma
workshops. This provides a dual quick-fix software solutions, a and Evans of Cranfield University
purpose involving both market- mix of longer-term and immedi- (UK) give an interesting insight
ing and customers in the green ate-term thinking. European into the application of eco-
debate. An example, of where companies may find experientally innovation principles to kitchen
this approach might be useful is that the bias to action, may design using an example of a
with purchasing managers. A generate more appropriate project undertaken with
study (see JSPD 6, p19) recently systems and tools to enable Electrolux (p57). The interview
indicated that IT buyers saw the progressive eco-(re)design and with Peter James of the
inclusion of recycled materials in eco-innovation. A key common Sustainable Business Centre (UK)
products as lowering the prod- focus for the development of draws together some of the
ucts’ value. There is an education eco-design internationally might current thinking over the
job to be done of informing be an international standard, complexities surrounding the
customers that recycled can be as similar to ISO 14001. role of products and services
good as virgin material. If these within the sustainable consump-
issues are addressed in the idea tion and production debate
generation/concept development
And finally… (p54). Finally, the O2 pages (p60)
phase of product development This issue of the journal draws highlight a number of new
through involvement of key together articles that illustrate developments in France and
stakeholders then it is more the potential of eco-innovation the Netherlands. •
likely that greener products or from both a macro and micro
services will be successful from perspective. The article by
a business perspective. Johansson and Magnusson of References
Linköping University (Sweden)
SPRU at the University of
examines the relationship
New tools Sussex
between innovation theory and
and Ernst & Young Ltd,
Even allowing for the economic eco-innovation using examples
‘Integrated Product Policy’,
problems in South East Asia, of shifts occurring in the car and commissioned by European
there appears to be growing lawn-mower sectors (p7). Frei Commission: DGXI, March 1998
interest in LCA as a strategic from ABB (Switzerland) high-
means to determine the environ- lights that there is a need Charter, M. and Clark, T.,
mental impact of products. for clear goals for eco-effective ‘Design for Environment’ survey,
The Centre for Sustainable
However, a range of European product design and to be success-
Design, UK, December 1996.
companies seem to be moving ful it should be integrated into
towards the need for simpler product development (p16). Prentis, E., ‘Customers – the
tools to enable quicker decision- forgotten stakeholder’, Towards
The article on ‘active disassem-
making. It is unlikely that design- Sustainable Product Design, 3rd
bly’ (p30) by Chiodo, Billett and
ers want to be seen as specialists International Conference, 26–27
Harrison of Brunel University
in environmental issues, but they October 1998, London, UK,
(UK) illustrates the potential for
need the right information. In organised by The Centre for
re-thinking disassembly using
Europe there seems to be a Sustainable Design, UK.
smart materials. Walker's article
growing interest in the eco-
(p42) gives an illustration of a



Eco-innovations –
a novel phenomenon?
Glenn Johansson and Thomas Magnussonn
PhD students, International Graduate School of Management
and Industrial Engineering, Linköping University, Sweden

Glenn Johansson holds an MSc in It has generally been accepted that participation of many different
Mechanical Engineering from Chalmers in order to reach sustainability, actors including governments
University of Technology, Gothenburg. significant changes will have to and communities, consumers and
He also holds a Licentiate of Engineering take place. Eco-innovations ie. new individuals, corporations and
degree; title of the licentiate thesis: products and processes providing enterprises; creativity and inno-
‘Design for Disassembly – A customer value, while using less vation is needed at every level
Framework’. Glenn’s current research resources and resulting in reduced of society (Jackson, 1996). The
focuses on how to integrate and manage environmental impacts, are there- importance of technological
eco-design in industrial product develop- fore of great importance. On the innovation in this transforma-
ment. Before becoming a PhD student at basis of selected parts of the tion process has been underlined
the International Graduate School of existing innovation theory, this by many authors (see eg. Stahel,
Management and Industrial Engineering, article explores the eco-innovation 1996; Fussler and James, 1996;
Linköping University, he spent a year at phenomenon. The theory is used Jackson, 1996). Eco-innovations,
the Swedish Institute of Production to analyse two examples of eco- ie. ‘new products and processes
Engineering Research. He has also two innovation; the struggle between which provide customer and
years of industrial experience designing steel and aluminium to the applica- business value but significantly
equipment and construction parts tion of light weight car bodies, and decrease environmental impacts’
for paper and board machines. the development of lawn mowers (James, 1997), have attracted
with improved environmental increased attention both in
Thomas Magnusson holds an MSc in performance. The analysis shows industry and academia. The
Industrial Management and Economics that innovation theory is useful for purpose of this article is to
with specialisation in Innovation creating a better understanding of explore existing innovation
Management. He has two years of the concept and development of theory in relation to the eco-
experience within the field of eco- eco-innovations. It is therefore innovation phenomenon. The
design, completing applied research concluded that the innovation questions are whether existing
at the Swedish Institute of Production theory should be part of the frame innovation theory is applicable
Engineering Research. After that he of reference when analysing and and if it is useful for creating a
joined the International Graduate School managing eco-innovations. better understanding of the
of Management and Industrial concept and development of
Engineering at Linköping University. As a eco-innovations.
PhD student tied to the division of
Industrial Management, he is currently In 1987, the World Commission
focusing his research on eco-design and on Environment and
The eco-innovation concept
eco-innovation as a strategy for incre- Development (1987) introduced Technological innovations can
mental and radical change. the concept of sustainable devel- contribute to reduced environ-
opment. The transformation mental impact. For example, the
towards sustainability requires new high voltage generator



called the Powerformer recycling), and service extension. the parts of the theory which
developed by Asea Brown Boveri These six dimensions can be provide managerial implications
significantly reduces environ- used to assess innovations for individual companies by
mental impact compared to according to their environmental studying innovation and tech-
existing alternatives. The merit. For example, the develop- nology as phenomena in an
efficiency is improved compared ment of lead-free tin solders industrial context.
to existing generators and the reduces health and environmen-
The introduction begins with the
life cycle assessments (LCAs) tal risks by eliminating the toxic
‘S-curve model’ (Foster, 1986)
conducted on it have shown lead, the development of light
which describes the develop-
clear advantages. Another exam- and energy efficient compact
ment of, and competition
ple is the durable printer drums cars reduces the energy intensity,
amongst, technologies. The
in laser printers developed by and the application of ‘design for
model provides a picture of how
Kyocera Electronics. The durable recycling’ guidelines improves
technical performance is
printer drum eliminates material the revalorisation dimension.
improved over time and how
and energy consumption used in Innovations should be assessed
discontinuities arise as a result
the production of replacement in all dimensions to ensure that
of the entrance of new tech-
drums (Fussler and James, 1996). the environmental merit in one
nologies. Following the S-curve
A third example is the dimension is not counter-
model, the model of Abernathy
Sentricon™ Colony Elimination balanced by increased environ-
and Utterback (1978) suggests
Control System for termite mental impacts in another
how the patterns of innovation
control. This system uses one dimension. The Eco-compass is
change as an industry sector
ten thousandth of the amount useful to make this assessment
matures and how companies may
of active chemicals present in visual and is easy to understand.
change themselves to foster
standard termite barriers (Fussler It is also useful to identify
innovation. The ‘Transilience
and James, 1996). possibilities for improvements
map’ (Abernathy and Clark, 1985)
and to stimulate environmental
However, innovation does not provides a more dynamic model
creativity. The ‘Eco-design
always reduce the energy and which can be used to analyse the
strategy wheel’ (Brezet et al,
material intensity or pollution. competitive implications of
1997) and the concept of
Innovation can offer profit at the innovations. Finally, the concept
‘Material Intensity per Unit of
expense of increased environ- of ‘technological bandwagons’
Service’ (Schmidt-Bleek, 1996)
mental burdens. Therefore, it is (Wade, 1995) helps to illustrate
are other examples of tools
important to assess the environ- how the market success of a
which can be used in a similar
mental consequences, positive as technology or a design arises.
way as the Eco-compass.
well as negative, of every inno-
Altogether the models presented
vation. The ‘Eco-compass’ devel-
in this section highlight two
oped at Dow is a simple tool for Innovation theory essential determinants of innova-
assessing environmental
To be able to analyse the tion, namely the technology and
improvements which can be used
question as to whether existing market aspects. As innovation,
to encourage the development
innovation theory is applicable by definition, deals with both the
of eco-innovations (Fussler and
and useful for creating a better novelty of the technology and
James, 1996). The Eco-compass
understanding of the eco-inno- the commercial use of it (see for
has six dimensions, all represent-
vations it is necessary to present example Dussauge et al, 1996),
ing relevant environmental
a framework for the analysis. these aspects are central to inno-
issues: health and environmental
This section gives a brief intro- vation theory. The selected parts
risk, resource conservation,
duction to selected parts of of the innovation theory can be
energy intensity, materials
innovation theory, which will used for developing an under-
intensity, revalorisation
serve as a basis for the analysis in standing of these aspects and this
(remanufacturing, reuse and
the next section. The focus is on is vital for the ability to manage



innovation. evolves over time as an industry

sector matures. Companies tend
to develop and adapt to fit the
S-curves and patterns different phases in the innova- progress
of innovation tion pattern. In the first phase,
According to Foster (1986) tech- the ‘fluid pattern’, the innova- is not only
nology develops over time in a tions are mostly radical, while
pattern which can be illustrated the innovations become more characterised
as an S-curve. The initial phase and more incremental as the
of the development of a tech- company develops from a small by incremental
nology is characterised by entrepreneurial unit to a large-
knowledge acquisition and
limited effectiveness of the new
scale producer. The development
of a dominant product design
technology. As knowledge is
built up, the technological
typically relates to a shift from
radical to incremental product
but also by
innovation. In the fluid pattern
performance is improved. The
development is driven by product innovation dominates, discontinuous
numerous incremental innova- but process innovation becomes
tions, which continuously increasingly influential as the advance. These
improve the performance of the industry sector matures. The
technology until its technical companies are typically technol- technological
limit is approached. However, ogy-based and flexible, working
technical progress is not only in great uncertainty with small
incentives for large investments.
characterised by incremental
improvements, but also by
discontinuous advance (Tushman
Later on, in the second phase
denoted as the ‘transitional
and Rosenkopf, 1992). These
technological discontinuities
pattern’, where the uncertainties
about markets and targets are
rare and radical
constitute rare and radical reduced, companies make larger
innovations which involve investments in R&D and they innovations
fundamentally different ways of can be described as science-
doing business. A technological based. In the third and last which involve
discontinuity can be seen as a phase, the ‘specific pattern’,
‘jump’ between two S-curves the companies become fully fundamentally
representing alternative and specialised and focused on cost
competing technologies. The reductions. As an industry sector
becomes more and more
different ways
distinction between incremental
innovation (which refine and
improve existing products and
specialised, the companies
become tied to the technology
of doing
processes) and radical innova-
tion (which introduce totally
on which their production is
based. Therefore, major product
new concepts) is a central changes that originate from
notion in innovation theory within a specialised company
(Dussauge et al, 1996). tend to be rejected. Instead
major product changes tend to
Complementary to the S-curve
originate from companies
model, Abernathy and Utterback
outside the established industry
(1978) use a model to explain
how the pattern of innovation



Impact on technology is introduced the addition of new and promising technology

and competition new community members which fulfils the requirements
produces a bandwagon effect and of a radical eco-innovation.
The notion about incremental
thus the position of the new
versus radical innovation is taken In response to the demand for
technology is strengthened.
one step further by Abernathy light weight car bodies, steel
and Clark (1985) introducing the producers are developing
‘Transilience map’. Transilience The development of materials which are lighter
than existing steel, while still
means the capacity of an innova- eco-innovations
tion to influence the companies having all the other properties
Is the framework provided by requested. In the UltraLight Steel
existing resources, skills and
the existing innovation theory Auto Body (ULSAB) project, 35
knowledge. These authors
relevant for eco-innovations? companies within the steel
challenge Shumpeter’s (1942)
As a basis for this discussion the industry have co-operated to
view of innovation as the
example of the struggle between develop high strength steel
process of creative destruction
steel and aluminium in the appli- which reduces the weight of the
and argue that although tech-
cation to light weight car bodies car (Recycling, 1998). The devel-
nological innovation imposes
is used. Additionally, examples opment and use of high strength
change, this change need not be
of eco-innovation derived from steel may be seen as an incre-
disruptive for a company. They
an analysis of the development mental eco-innovation built
claim that innovations may
of lawn mowers with improved upon established technologies.
either disrupt or entrench exist-
environmental performance are
ing competencies. Whereas Today it is not possible to
discussed (Bragd, 1997).
radical innovations disrupt and analyse if steel has the potential
make existing competence Steel technology versus to reduce environmental impact
obsolete, incremental innova- aluminium technology and be competitive to alumin-
tions conserve and entrench the The emissions from cars ium. However, the struggle
existing competence. In the contribute to, among other between steel and aluminium
‘Transilience map’ these two things, the ‘greenhouse effect’ car bodies illustrates some
opposites are applied on two and should therefore be interesting aspects of the devel-
different dimensions: the tech- minimised. Consequently, reduc- opment of eco-innovations.
nology/production and the ing a car’s petrol consumption · The aluminium technology is
markets/customer linkage. Four during use has become of great in its infancy in the application
quadrants representing different importance, and a key issue in to car bodies but it may
kinds of innovation are distin- this effort is to reduce the car’s challenge steel technology in
guished, ‘Architectural’, weight. Because of aluminium’s relation to its environmental
‘Revolutionary’, ‘Regular’ and low density, the use of performance. The reaction
‘Niche Creation’, each having aluminium in car body designs of the steel producers is to
different competitive impact and may provide an opportunity to protect their position by
each requiring different organi- reduce the emissions produced. making improvements to their
sational and managerial skills. Some car producers have shown technology which illustrates a
Regarding the development interest in using aluminium car common response from
of a technology, Wade (1995) bodies and thus the aluminium companies that rely on
discusses the concept of ‘tech- producers see potential to reach established technologies (as
nological bandwagons’. This new markets. The quality of the described by Utterback, 1996).
concept suggests that the support material needs to be further
· If car producers decide to
a technology achieves in the developed, but the potential
shift to aluminium technology
technological community is seems to be substantial.
it may be seen as ‘jump’ to a
decisive for its success and its Aluminium in the car body
new S-curve. This jump would
diffusion. As a new technology application can be seen as a
illustrate a radical innovation



in the car body design with the

new S-curve representing the
development of the aluminium
technology. environmental
· Although some attempts have m technolo
m iniu
been made to use aluminium a lu
h str y
instead of steel, the ‘band- hig technolog
te el
wagon effect’ as described by s

Wade (1995) cannot yet be

identified. Nevertheless, the
concept of ‘technological
bandwagons’ seems relevant. nol
steel tech
If the aluminium technology is
accepted, a community of car
producers using aluminium may time

be established and the ‘band-

wagon effect’ may arise.
· The development of high Figure 1: The aluminium technology challenging the steel technology in the
strength steel entrenches exist- application of light weight car body designs (after Utterback, 1996).
ing competencies in car body
design and manufacturing, but influence the company’s odour and the amount of harm-
a shift to aluminium technol- resources, skills and knowledge ful substances emitted into the
ogy may destroy existing can be understood. As discussed air. In addition the general
competencies. Although some above, the ‘Transilience map’ environmental profile of the
car producers have shown illustrates four different kinds of products has been improved.
interest in aluminium car innovations, each having specific Because the environmental
bodies, the breakthrough for competitive impact, each performance of the combustion
aluminium may take quite a influencing the technology/ engine has been improved the
while (if it ever happens) production and markets/ applicability of the company’s
because it may not only customer linkages differently, existing knowledge has been
destroy the competence among and each requiring specific reinforced. However, the
steel producers, but among the organisational and managerial catalytic converter has not
car producers as well. skills. affected the way the lawn
mowers are used and thus the
Through many years of experi-
The discussion in point 1 and 2 customers have not needed to
ence in the engineering industry,
is illustrated in Figure 1. re-learn how to use the lawn
Husqvarna AB developed compe-
Green lawn mowers mowers. The improved environ-
tence in mechanical engineering.
mental performance combined
In an analysis of the develop- The company’s lawn mowers had
with no changes in customer use
ment of green lawn mowers at traditionally been based on the
has resulted in strengthened ties
Husqvarna AB the importance of combustion engine technology,
with established customers and
market differentiation and which is regarded as a dominant
improved service in the estab-
marketing strategy for green design in the gardening industry.
lished application. Because the
products was identified (Bragd, Husqvarna AB developed several
catalytic converter has strength-
1997). If Bragd’s results are applications of the catalyst
ened the existing technological
combined with the ‘Transilience technology for small engines.
competencies and customer
map’ (Abernathy and Clark, The application of the catalytic
linkages it can be classified as a
1985), the capacity of different converter improved the combus-
regular innovation in the
kinds of eco-innovations to tion technology by reducing the
‘Transilience map’.



Husqvarna AB has also developed In addition to the battery- distribution that fit the require-
a new battery-powered lawn powered lawn mower, ments of the product’s charac-
mower with positive environ- Husqvarna AB developed a solar teristics. From a marketing
mental features such as no lawn mower, which is a robot perspective the solar mower
exhaust fumes and low noise that mows at random without should not have been treated
levels. The battery-powered human intervention (Bragd, as a mainstream product, but as
mower represented a completely 1997). The product originated a special product in communica-
new technology for the company from a prototype presented by tion and selling tactics. Relating
and demanded new technologi- an inventor at a trade fair in 1991. the solar mower to the
cal skills. This was recognised by The technology of using day- ‘Transilience map’ it is clear that
the management and the light as fuel totally eliminates the product was seen as a
required competence was the emissions produced during ‘revolutionary innovation’, ie.
acquired externally. However, use and can therefore be charac- the solar technology was new
the dimension of the terised as a radical step towards to the company, but the product
‘Transilience map’ focusing on environmentally sound products. was not treated differently in
the influence on markets and To Husqvarna AB the solar relation to market linkage.
customer linkages was not technology was an entirely new However, like the battery-
recognised. Existing distribution technology outside of existing powered lawn mower the solar
networks and traditional market- competencies and this required mower had the characteristics of
ing strategies were used and the new expertise. As a result of the an ‘architectural innovation’ and
product’s potential to attract innovativeness of the project, should clearly have been treated
environmentally conscious several external consultants and differently from a marketing
customer groups was not distributors wanted to participate perspective.
identified. The analysis by Bragd in the generation of the tech-
In Figure 2, the examples of the
(1997) shows that the new prod- nology. Offering a completely
lawn mower with catalytic
uct required new knowledge of different way of mowing grass
converter, the battery-powered
the customers and thus re- the solar mower required
lawn mower, and the solar
education of the customers was customers to change their
mower are illustrated in the
needed. Furthermore, the distri- perceptions of how to cut grass.
‘Transilience map’. The solar
bution network had to learn new The analysis performed by Bragd
mower and the battery-powered
practices and the demands of (1997) shows that the marketing
lawn mowers represent the same
the service and the after market had to be based on symbolic
kind of innovation (architectural
support changed substantially. aspects, which had to be visible
innovation) but the solar mower
Applying the ‘Transilience map’ to the customer ie. modern and
has more radical impacts on the
on this example, it is clear that futuristic. Another lesson learned
technology dimension as well as
the battery-powered lawn from the introduction of the
the market/customer dimension.
mower was treated as a revolu- solar mower was that the
tionary innovation which marketing department tried to
disrupted existing technological cover too many markets at the Discussion and conclusions
competencies, but maintained same time. Market research
It seems that eco-innovations
the existing market and customer should have been conducted
follow the same pattern as
linkages. However, the product before the launch, to identify
illustrated in Abernathy and
had the characteristics of an market segments to focus on,
Utterback’s model (1978) which
‘architectural innovation’, with and the product should have
states that major product changes
the ability to disrupt the existing been tested on a reference
rarely originate within mature
customer linkages and attract market. Another finding by Bragd
industry sectors. The solar
new markets. (1997) is the importance of
mower is an example of this
finding suitable forms of
phenomenon, because the



disrupt existing/
The battery-
niche creation create new linkages architectural
the solar mower as it should
have been considered

markets/customer linkage
the battery-powered
lawn mower as it should
lawn mower
have been considered

illustrates that
a company in

conserve/entrench disrupt obselete

an established
existing competence existing competence

industry sector
lawn mowers with the battery-powered the solar mower as
can benefit
catalytic converter lawn mower as it was it was considered
from new
existing linkages revolutionary
Figure 2: The lawn mower with catalytic converter, the battery-powered lawn
mower, and the solar mower placed in the ‘Transilience map’ (after Abernathy to develop
and Clark, 1985).
radical eco-
product originated from an solar mower illustrates that a
inventor outside the mature radical eco-innovation can be innovations.
gardening industry. The solar exploited by a company within a
mower also illustrates the resis- mature industry sector.
tance among companies based Husqvarna saw the new solar
on established technologies to technology as an opportunity to
adopt new technologies, because create an image of the company
when the product's inventor as being innovative (Bragd, 1997).
presented the prototype at a The solar mower, being slightly
trade fair, the whole industry less radical than the battery-
laughed and argued that there powered lawn mower, illustrates
was no market for such a thing that a company in an established
(Bragd, 1997). industry sector can benefit from
new technological options to
However, Abernathy and Clark
develop radical eco-innovations.
(1985) argue that companies and
The aluminium car body is
industry sectors can de-mature as
another example, where the
a result of changes such as new
aluminium industry, due to
technological options, changes
environmental demands from
in customer demands, and
the car producers, has seen the
government policy. Although
opportunity to move to more
rejected when first presented, the
radical modes of innovation.



New technological options, envi- influence the company’s existing companies (as discussed by Hart,
ronmental customer demands resources, skills and knowledge. 1997), but it may also result in
and government policies result The battery-driven lawn mower major threats for established
in changed conditions for the and the solar mower exemplifies industry sectors. The struggle
companies. Those who learn to that classifying eco-innovations between the steel and the
anticipate, interpret and corre- according to the ‘Transilience aluminium technologies
spond to these changes will be map’ may be useful when plan- illustrates this, as the need for
able to create competitive advan- ning for the launch of the prod- lighter car bodies and the
tage. A company can either ucts. These products were viewed introduction of new light-weight
adopt a re-active position and by the management as ‘revolu- materials threatens to disrupt the
just achieve minimum demands, tionary innovations’, but should competence of the established
or choose a pro-active position have been seen as ‘architectural steel industry.
in order to exceed or push innovations’ emphasising the
The concepts of ‘organisational
demands. An empirical study by need for new market linkages.
communities’ and ‘technological
Bianchi et al (1997) revealed that The market dimension of new
bandwagons’ (Wade, 1995)
companies adopting a re-active eco-innovations is very impor-
deepen the understanding of the
position usually develop incre- tant as discussed by Bragd (1997).
diffusion patterns for new tech-
mental eco-innovations in order Bragd’s analysis of the two lawn
nologies. The lesson to be
to comply with specific external mower examples shows that
learned is that organisational
demands, whereas pro-active understanding the market
support is just as important as
companies accomplish incre- dimension and the buying
technological superiority. So,
mental as well as radical eco- behaviour of the existing and
even though environmentally
innovations. Adopting a pro- potential customers is very
sound products and services may
active position seems to be a key important when introducing
be desperately needed, superior
factor for companies in estab- environmentally sound products.
environmental performance is
lished industry sectors if they are This is congruent with Abernathy
not enough. Organisational
to accomplish radical eco-inno- and Clark’s (1985) statement that
support is necessary to gain
vations. In order to achieve ‘architectural innovation’
market acceptance. Awareness
competitive advantage managers demands unique insight about
of this should mean that pro-
in pro-active companies commit- user needs combined with the
active companies can create
ted to environmental issues ability to see the application of
bandwagons of environmentally
should support the development the technology in a new way.
sound technologies.
of eco-innovations, for example, Thus, it is clear that the aware-
by implementing environmental ness of the kinds of innovation This article has shown that the
policies, promoting environmen- the company is managing is existing innovation theory
tal sound ethics, and shaping critical, as this awareness is a provides a useful framework for
reward systems which support prerequisite for being able to creating a better understanding
environmental creativity. adjust the organisation and the of the concept and the develop-
management practises accord- ment of eco-innovations. For
The successful pursuit of differ-
ingly. example, the theory provides
ent kinds of innovation require
insight into the competition
different kinds of organisational This article also has shown that
between technologies, factors
and managerial skills. Classifying radical eco-innovation may
affecting market diffusion and
the eco-innovations according to disrupt existing competence
market success and the impacts
the ‘Transilience map’ may and make it obsolete. The need
of different innovations on a
provide insight into different for products with significantly
company’s skills, and knowledge.
aspects of eco-innovation and improved environmental
Hence, it can be concluded that
help to better understand the performance may provide major
innovation theory can and
capacity of eco-innovations to opportunities for pro-active
should be part of the frame of



reference when analysing and tion concept. Consequently, it is elaborated. One such question is
managing eco-innovations. The not possible to state that the how to relate the environmental
models and tools provided by framework represented by exist- dimension of innovations, ie.
the innovation literature can ing innovation theory helps to the environmental performance,
serve as support for the fully understand all aspects of to traditional performance
companies when managing eco-innovation. On the contrary, measures such as price,
eco-innovations. the discussion in this article functionality, and technical
reveals many interesting performance. •
This paper has only ‘scratched
questions that need to be further
the surface’ of the eco-innova-

Abernathy, W. J, Clark K. B. Foster, N. ‘Timing Technological Stahel, W. R. ‘Conditions of demand
‘Innovation: Mapping the winds of Transitions’, in Horwitch, M. (ed.) and supply with dematerialisation as
Creative Destruction’, in Research ‘Technology in the Modern a key strategy’, in AFR-report 136,
Policy, Number 14, (1985), pp 3-22 Corporation: A Strategic (Stockholm, 1996)
Perspective’, (Pergamon Press, Inc.,
Abernathy, W. J, Utterback, J. M. Tushman, M. L., Rosenkopf, L.
‘Patterns of Industrial Innovation’, in ‘Organisational Determinants of
Technology Review, (June/July Fussler, C., James, P. ‘Driving eco- Technology Change: Towards a
1978), pp. 41-47 innovation -A breakthrough disci- Sociology of Technology Evolution’,
pline for innovation and sustainabil- in Research in Organisational
Bianchi, R., Noci, G., Pozzi, C.,
ity’ (London, Pitman Publishing, 1996) Behaviour, Vol. 14, (JAI Press, 1992),
Priano, A. ‘Analysing basic patterns
pp. 311-347
of environmental innovation within Hart, S. L. ‘Strategies for a sustain-
value chains’, Proceedings of the 4th able world’, in Harvard Business Utterback, J. M. ‘Mastering the
International Product Development Review, (January-February 1997), pp Dynamics of Innovation’, (Boston,
Management Conference, 66-76 Massachusetts, Harvard Business
(Stockholm, 1997) School Press, 1996)
Jackson, T. ‘Material concerns -
Bragd, A. ‘Learning from the intro- Pollution, profit and quality of life’, Wade, J. ‘Dynamics of
duction of green products: two case (London/New York, Routledge, 1996) Organisational Communities and
studies from the gardening industry’ Technological Bandwagons: an
James, P. ‘The Sustainability Circle:
in The Journal of Sustainable Empirical Investigation of Community
a new tool for product development
Product Design, Issue 3, (July 1997), Evolution in the Microprocessor
and design’, in The Journal of
pp 7-17 Market’, in Strategic Management
Sustainable Product Design, Issue 2,
Journal, Vol. 16, (1995), pp. 111-133
Brezet, H et al ‘ECODESIGN – a (July 1997), pp 52-57
promising approach to sustainable World Commission on Environment
Recycling, Nummer 3, (Helsingborg,
production and consumption’, and Development, ‘Our Common
Indufa Förlag AB, 1998)
(United Nations Publication ,UNEP, Future’, (Oxford University Press, UK,
1997) Schmidt-Bleek, F. ‘Dematerialisation 1987)
-From Concept to Practise’, in AFR-
Dussauge, P., Hart, S., Ramanantsoa,
report 136, (Stockholm, 1996)
B. ‘Strategic Technology
Management’, (Chichester, John Schumpeter, J. A. ‘Capitalism,
Wiley & Sons, 1996) Socialism and Democracy’,
(Cambridge, Harvard University
Press, 1942)



Eco-effective product
design: the contribution of
environmental management
in designing sustainable
Dr Michael Frein
Environmental Manager, ABB Power Generation Ltd, Switzerland

In research, as in practice, there is environmental performance can be

often a weak link between environ- improved. Many companies are
mental management and product starting to recognise this, but there
design. To solve this problem, are few examples of the systematic
environmental aspects should be integration of environmental
integrated into the earliest design aspects in product design.
phases. Eco-effective product design
The goal of eco-effective product
Dr Michael Frei worked aims to systematically establish and
design is to close the gap between
as a research fellow in the implement goals in product design
environmental management and
Eco-Performance group at the with the aim of improving environ-
product design (Frei 1998). To
Institute for Industrial Engineering mental performance. These goals
enable this various goals should
and Management (BWI) of the should be based on significant
be set eg. the avoidance of
Swiss Federal Institute of environmental aspects of the
hazardous materials, reduction of
Technology (ETH) in Zurich, products and take into account
emissions during manufacture or
Switzerland. His main research environmental requirements. The
increased eco-efficiency. Eco-
field was environmental paper includes a case study as an
effective product design focuses
management and sustainable example of eco-effective product
on the systematic development
product design (SPD), resulting design.
and usage of these goals in
in a PhD on eco-effective sustainable product design (SPD)
product design. (Figure 1).
Since July 1998 he has been In environmental management and
ompanies increasingly have
the Environmental Manager at
ABB Power Generation Ltd.
C to consider the environmental
aspects of their activities in order
SPD the term ‘eco-efficiency' is
often used. However, it is impor-
(Switzerland). tant to make a distinction between
to improve their environmental
performance. For a company effectiveness and efficiency.
which designs products, design Effectiveness can be defined as a
activity plays an important part in measure of goal achievement and
this task. Design defines the prod- efficiency as the amount of
uct’s environmental impact over resources used to reach the goal.
its total life cycle and any Therefore ‘eco-effectiveness' can
improvement in the product be defined as the systematic
design process will mean that derivation and usage of goals to


aspects into product design. Most
of the companies studied had a
significant level of environmen-
environmental environmental
management aspects of products tal consciousness and the
relevant technical knowledge
to design more sustainable
environment- eco-effective early design products. However, only a
oriented goals product design phases few companies have defined
environmental goals for product
design and have a process in
place which integrates such
product design
The research indicated that
there are significant differences
Figure 1: The goal of eco-effective product design is to integrate environmental between those companies which
management and the environmental aspects of products in the design process have achieved ISO 14001, those
applying for the certificate and
those which have not achieved it
pre-condition: 100 not certified (Figure 2). The latter has a low
environmental orientation of product design

100 planned to certify

product design 100 certified environmental consciousness
environmental 40 and SPD is accordingly less
consciousness 92
94 important. Companies which
significance of sustainable 30 intend to apply for a certificate
design recognised 85
82 show about the same level of
technical knowledge 30 environmental consciousness
available 76 and knowledge as certified
env.-oriented 20 companies. The weak point is
goals defined 15
53 the development and usage of
process with integrated 0 environmental goals in product
env.-oriented goals 18 design, even amongst ISO 14001
0 20 40 60 80 100 certified companies. Only about
number of companies (%) 50% of the certified companies
number of companies (%) define such goals, and less than
100% are equivalent with:
20% show a product design
· 17 certified companies
· 13 companies who plan to certify process which systematically
· 10 not certified companies integrates these goals. This result
is somewhat of a surprise,
Figure 2: Missing environmental orientation of product design in practice because ISO 14001 requires that
(Frei and Waser 1998) goals be defined based on the
significant environmental aspects
improve environmental however products are not being of the products (ISO 14001,
performance (Frei 1998). improved. A study was carried chapter 4.3.3; cf. Frei et al. 1998).
out in the Autumn of 1997
amongst 42 Swiss companies,
The missing environmental Basics of sustainable
producing electrical and
orientation of product design product design
mechanical products (Frei
Increasingly, companies are and Waser 1998). The results Sustainable product design
improving the environmental reinforce the problem of (SPD): a systemic approach
performance of processes, translating environmental SPD is part of a socio-technical


On the other hand, the
function often already defines
the most significant environ-
mental impact of a product eg.
the emissions of a car because
of its petrol consumption.
· Consideration of the whole
product system: the product
system describes the product
life cycle (cf. ISO 14040).
The basis of SPD is life cycle
engineering – limitation on
only one or a few phases, like
recycling – is not acceptable.
· Consider environmental impacts:
Figure 3: SPD in an organisational context SPD has to consider the poten-
tial environmental impact of
any new product – based on
system (Figure 3). It is important significant environmental the product function and the
to remember that product design aspects of any new product. whole product system. The
defines the physical product necessary knowledge can be
It is also important to be aware
system which causes environ- gained by analysing existing
of the role that ‘the environ-
mental impacts and which may products. General checklists are
ment' plays within the company.
contribute to environmental of no help in this situation.
For eco-effective product design
problems. These results are · Considering environmental
to progress it is crucial that the
perceived by internal and exter- requirements from stakeholders and
company sees environmental
nal stakeholders, which results in the company: sustainable
aspects of products as an impor-
requirements for product design. products have to be credible
tant means for cost savings or
Only sustainable products which to stakeholders, eg. customers.
have a high customer acceptance Therefore, environmental
can replace less sustainable Five principles of sustainable
requirements of internal and
products. product design
external stakeholders must be
For SPD to be successful, the considered.
Product design also defines the
above mentioned systemic
product system covering the · Integration into the design process:
c0nsiderations have to be taken
whole product life cycle. For SPD can only be successful if
into account. The main conclu-
example, material and energy environmental aspects are
sions can be summarised in five
inputs and outputs in the systematically integrated into
principles (Frei 1998):
product system cause key envi- the regular design process (cf.
ronmental impacts. These · Concentration on the product Lenox and Ehrenfeld 1997). For
impacts contribute to environ- function: the task of product this integration, environmental
mental problems like global design is to develop functions goals are crucial.
warming, which are perceived eg. the car's function is to
and assessed by different stake- provide a transport solution. The previously mentioned
holders. The designer has to Therefore, environmental research study highlighted that
make the ‘right' green decisions impact always has to be related the problem lies in the
during the design process – and to the product's function (cf. application of these principles
therefore should be aware of the functional unit in ISO 14040). within organisations.



The concept of eco-effective

product design
The integration of environmental
aspects at the very beginning of
the design process is essential.
Environmental aspects – like the
petrol consumption of a car –
should be taken into account in
the list of requirements. In these
early phases the main decisions
are made, which also define
potential environmental impacts
(Frei 1998).
Eco-effective product design
focuses on the systematic devel-
opment and usage of environ-
mental goals in product design.
These goals should be based on
Figure 4: The concept of eco-effective product design (Frei 1998).
the significant environmental
aspects of the product. The
procedure can be structured in Derivation of environmental environmentally-oriented
requirements stakeholder requirements. Quite
four main steps (Figure 4):
often this strategy is not formu-
· Derivation of environmentally- Stakeholders have diverse
lated explicitly. Environmental
oriented requirements from internal requirements concerning
policy, environmental reports,
and external stakeholders. products. The question is, how
environmental programmes as
· Evaluation of the significant does the company perceive its
well as the general strategy –
environmental aspects of the new environmental situation and
especially the product-market-
product: a reference product – how does it deal with the
strategy – can give some input.
an existing product similar to stakeholders’ environmental
the one being planned – should requirements? The answer lies
be selected and its environ- in the firm’s environmental Evaluation of the significant
mental impact analysed. strategy which, for products environmental aspects of
· Product planning: the might be based on: the reference product
environmentally-oriented · reactive problem-solving
Apart from the environmental
requirements and the signifi- · reacting to immediate pressures
requirements, it is important to
cant environmental aspects · legal compliance know the significant environ-
of the new product must be · risk avoidance mental aspects of the product
integrated with all other
· cost reduction itself. These are two different
requirements and product
· environment as a marketing viewpoints, with two different
ideas. The result is recorded
consideration results.
in the list of requirements.
· systematic improvement of In order to evaluate the
· Design: the list of requirements
is the basis for the design. The the environmental performance significant environmental aspects
requirements are applied and of products. of a product it is not enough to
the greeness of the product consider only materials. In addi-
The environmental strategy gives tion, the product function and
should be reviewed.
the framework for eco-effective the whole product system have
product design by defining to be taken into account. A lot



above Figure 5: Flushing system

(Source: Geberit Ltd.)

right Figure 6: The ‘environmental

learning cycle' to determine the
significant environmental aspects
of products (Frei and Zust 1997)

of products cause their main · Definition of the function: the

The environmental impact during cycle starts by defining func-
their usage (so-called ‘active' tions of the reference product.
environmental products) because, eg. of their The function has to be seen
energy consumption. from the customer's point of
strategy gives The integration of environmental
view. Therefore, a functional
unit, which is a measure of the
aspects into the design process.
the framework poses a problem. In the early
performance of the functional
output of the product system,
phases – where the most
for eco- important decisions are made –
must be defined (ISO 14040).
· Modelling the product system:
only little knowledge is available
effective about the potential environmen-
tal impact of the product. To
based on its function, the
product system has to be
modelled. For related products,
product design solve this problem, the environ-
mental aspects of a reference all product life phases must be
product should be evaluated considered.
by defining against various technical, envi- · Material and energy flows: every
ronmental and economic criteria. product system generates
environmentally The reference product must be material and energy flows and
essentially similar to the new the inputs and outputs of the
-oriented product with regard to its system have to be evaluated.
function and attributes. · Environmental impact: the material
stakeholder To evaluate the significant
and energy flows have an
impact on the environment.
environmental aspect of a
requirements. product the ‘environmental
These flows must be described
in terms of elementary flows
learning cycle' can be used (Frei
into the environment (ISO
and Zust 1997), which is based
on the principles of Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA) (cf. ISO · Impact assessment: the environ-
14040). The ‘environmental mental impact must be assessed
learning cycle' represents a cycle against its influence on envi-
ronmental problems. The
of six steps (Figure 6).



definition of environmental
problems is not only influenced
by the environment but also
by society, customers and the
company. In addition, environ-
mental problems can change
over time and according to
location – a fact which has to
be taken into account in impact
· Causal analysis: the connection
between environmental
impact and the function or
composition of a product must
be investigated. The result of Figure 7: The relative environmental impacts of three representative products of a
the causal analysis are the sanitary company over their product life cycle (Frei 1998, data from Gerber 1997).
significant environmental
aspects of the product.

Example: flushing system function, the product system was Product planning
The concept of the eco-effective modelled with around 45 The main internal and external
product design is illustrated using processes over material deploy- environmental requirement of the
the design of a new flushing ment, production, usage and flushing system is to minimise
system (Figure 5). Key internal and disposal. To evaluate and assess water consumption during the use
external requirements that have to the environmental impact, the phase. To minimise the water
be taken into account include: BUWAL method with ecopoints consumption, a technique which
· the reduction of the water (BUWAL 1990) and Eco-Indicator allows the user to select two
used for flushing '95 (Goedkoop 1995) was used. The different flushing quantities was
· the usage of Polyvinyl Chloride result of the assessment shows added to the list of requirements.
(PVC) – due to pressure group that 95% of all environmental This resulted in about a 40%
concerns impact resulted from water reduction in water use.
· environmental considerations consumption during the usage of
being a central marketing the flushing system (cf. Figure 7).
Design can be structured into task
feature for the new flushing A second environmental aspect –
clarification, conceptual design,
system. although less important – is the
embodiment design and detail
general supply of materials and
Evaluation of the significant design. In task clarification, the
their disposal. An additional factor
environmental aspects requirement was to reduce water
results from the use of brass when
consumption during its use phase.
The ‘environmental learning circle' assessed with Eco-Indicator ’95.
During the conceptual design the
was applied to evaluate the To summarise, there are three
significant environmental aspect
significant environmental aspects significant environmental aspects
was addressed, eg. the function
of a flushing system (Gerber 1997, of the flushing system:
of ‘flushing'. The embodiment and
Frei 1998). The function of the · water consumption in the
detail design dealt with, among
product was defined as the use phase
others things, the mechanism for
flushing of a toilet over 50 years. · material intensity (weight)
the two flushing quantities; and the
Therefore, not only the physical · use of brass.
detail design of the flushing mech-
product was considered, but also
anism included material selection.
the water consumption during the
usage phase. Based on this



Product planning: definition

of the eco-effectiveness
During product planning, eco-
effectiveness is defined by draw-
ing up a list of requirements.
This list defines how the internal
and external environmental
requirements and the significant
environmental aspects of the
reference products should be
taken into account. In a first
step, the requirements are
Figure 8: The relative environmental impacts of cables over their product collected, in the second, the
life cycle (Frei 1998, data from Seipelt 1998). product life cycle is briefly
modelled and in the third, the
In a case study, the ‘environ- and power cables were analysed result is fixed in the list of
mental learning cycle' was (Seipelt 1998, Frei 1998). The requirements (Figure 9).
applied to analyse the significant results could be clustered in · Collecting environmental
environmental aspects of the three groups (Figure 8): requirements: internal and
whole product spectrum of a · ‘signal cables’ for data external stakeholders and the
sanitary company (Gerber 1997, transmission (with the idea of the product itself define
Frei 1998; Figure 7). Twelve significant environmental environmental requirements.
reference products were defined. impact in material deployment) · Modelling the product life cycle: the
The figure shows the relative · ‘power cables’ (with the biggest goal of the second step is a
environmental impacts for three impact through energy loss in systematic check of require-
representative reference prod- the usage of the cable) ments. To achieve this, the
ucts over their life phases. The
· ‘moved cables’, eg. built into product life cycle is briefly
result shows the biggest environ-
cars, trains or aircraft (which modelled and the
mental impact was during mater-
increase the energy consump- consequences of different vari-
ial deployment for the water
tion of the vehicle because ations assessed against
pipe, during the usage phase for
of their weight). technical, environmental and
the flushing system (because of
economic criteria. Using this
the water consumption) and This example illustrates that process, the environmental
over the whole production chain certain measures, eg. dematerial- impacts of all requirements are
for the installation system isation, can be appropriate in considered – not only the
(mainly because of transporta- some cases (‘signal cables’) and environmental elements. The
tion). Overall, the impacts from inappropriate in others (‘power basis for the modelling of the
the production phase were small cables’) eg. dematerialisation product life cycle is the
compared to the product's whole would increase power losses. It ‘environmental learning cycle'.
life cycle. The case clearly shows is especially important to distin-
· Drawing up the list of requirements:
how concentrating on the guish between ‘active' products,
the results of the previous step
production would have been the ie. products which cause envi-
are recorded in the list of
wrong strategy for improving the ronmental impacts during their
requirements. The significant
environmental performance of usage (like ‘power cables’ and
environmental aspects of the
this company. ‘moved cables’), and ‘passive'
product therefore build an
In a second case study, the products, which have no impact
integral part of the list of
environmental impacts of signal in the usage phase.
requirements and should be



automatically taken into

account in the design process.

Design: translating
To achieve eco-effectiveness
various design strategies, such as
prolonging product life, demate-
rialisation or recycling can be
used. It is, however, essential
that these design strategies are
not an end in themselves but
conceived to fulfil the above-
defined goals (cf. Alting and
Legarth 1995). The aim of design
should be to translate eco-
effectiveness efficiently. Figure 9: Product planning with the steps ‘Collecting environmentally-oriented
Applying eco-effective requirements', ‘Modelling and optimisation of the product life cycle' and
product design ‘Drawing up the list of requirements' (Frei 1998)

To apply eco-effective product

· individual experiences are products.
design, a process of change
brought into the organisation · The goal should be to integrate
within the company is necessary.
and are discussed; the ‘local environmental aspects into the
‘The environment' has to be
theory' on SPD changes product design process – eg.
recognised as strategically
· knowledge gained is used to defining environmentally-
important. SPD is not primarily
design new structures, tools orientated goals for every
a technical task, but a new
etc. in order to improve the product in all relevant design
capability which concerns the
design of sustainable products, phases. The goal definition
organisation as a whole (cf.
· the institutional knowledge process has to include all stake-
Lenox and Ehrenfeld 1997).
(corporate culture) of the holders involved in the process.
The organisation’s ability to By confronting these people
organisation influences, in its
learn is essential for the applica- with different views, the
turn, individual action and
tion of eco-effective product change process related to the
design. Therefore, value systems, ‘local theory' can be stimu-
so called ‘local theories’ – the Based on these reflections on lated. The new, common ‘local
way people involved in the organisational learning (espe- theory’ should build the basis
process think about environmen- cially on Baitsch et al. 1996) and for the goal definition.
tal topics – plays a crucial role. ‘systems engineering' (Zust 1997) · The organisation, tools and the
Organisational learning is the a procedure to apply eco- deployment of the employees
result of changes of ‘local effective product design has been involved in an eco-effective
theory' that result from the developed (Frei 1998; Figure 10). product design should be
interplay between the individual · Complete an analysis of the planned. The initial planning
and organisation on one hand, design process, internal and steps can be repeated several
and action and learning on the external stakeholders, times.
other (Baitsch et al. 1996; Muller- environmental requirements, · In the final stages of eco-
Stewens and Pautzke 1994); environmental problems effective product design,
· designers learn about SPD resulting in the significant special attention has to be paid
through their actions environmental aspects of the


to the training of employees.
· The implementation of a eco-
effective product design
process, should already include
recommendations about the
further development of the
design process.

There appears to be a gap
between environmental manage-
ment and product design. The
empirical study shows that this
is true even amongst environ-
mental leaders. The goal of the
Figure 10: Procedure to apply the eco-effective product design (Frei 1998).
concept of eco-effective product
design is to close this gap and
should be based on a systemic
approach to SPD and its five environmental performance of stakeholders should always be
principles. products. These goals are based considered. Increasingly,
on the environmental require- technological, environmental,
Eco-effective product design ments of all stakeholders and on economic and social aspects
takes environmental aspects into the significant environmental have to be integrated in SPD.
account in the early phases of aspects of the products. Therefore, it is important to
design. Its focus is on the develop integrated organisational
systematic development and The environmental impact of
systems to manage this
usage of goals in product design. the product, as well as the
process. •
The aim is to improve the perception of its impact by


Alting, L. and Legarth, J. (1995). Life Frei, M. and Waser, M. (1998). ISO 14001 (1996).
Cycle Engineering and Design. In: Umweltmanagement und umwelt- Umweltmanagementsysteme –
CIRP Annals – Manufacturing gerechte Produktentwicklung in der Spezifikation mit Anleitung zur
Technology. Vol. 44/2/1995. Hallwag, Praxis – Resultate einer Umfrage Anwendung. EN. ISO 14040 (1998).
Bern, 569-580. unter okologisch fuhrenden Umweltmanagement – Produkt-
Unternehmen der Schweizer ökobilanz – Prinzipien und allge-
Baitsch, C., Knoepfel, P. und Eberle,
Maschinen-, Elektro- und meine Anforderungen. EN.
A. (1996). Prinzipien und Instrumente
Metallindustrie. Betriebswissen-
organisationalen Lernens. In: Lenox, M., and Ehrenfeld, J. R.
schaftliches Institut (BWI) der
Organisationsentwick-lung, 3, 4-21. (1997). ‘Organizing for Effective
ETH Zürich, Zürich.
Environmental Design’, Business
BUWAL (1990). Methodik fur
Frei, M. and Züst, R. (1997). The Strategy and the Environment, 6, (4),
Oekobilanzen auf der Basis ökologis-
Eco-effective Product Design – 1-10.
cher Optimierung. Ein Bericht der
The Systematic Inclusion of
Arbeitsgruppe Oeko-Bilanz. Müller-Stewens, G. and Pautzke, G.
Environmental Aspects in Defining
Schriftenreihe Umwelt, Abfälle Nr. (1994). Fuhrungskräfteentwicklung
Requirements. In: Krause, F.-L. and
133, Bern. und organisatorisches Lernen. In:
Seliger, G. (Eds.) Life Cycle
Die lernende Organisation: Konzepte
Frei, M. (1998). Die öko-effektive Networks, 4th CIRP Seminar on Life
fur eine neue Qualität der Unter-
Produktentwicklung – Der Beitrag Cycle Engineering. Chapman & Hall,
nehmensentwicklung. Sattelberger,
des Umweltmanagements zur London, 163-173.
T. Gabler, Wiesbaden, 183-205.
Entwicklung umweltgerechter
Gerber, R. (1997). Bestimmen der
Produkte. Dissertation Nr. 12593 Seipelt, D. (1998). Bestimmen der
bedeutenden Umweltaspekte der
der ETH Zürich, Zürich. bedeutenden Umweltaspekte von
Produkte der Firma Geberit.
Energie- und Signalkabel der Firma
Frei, M., Dannheim, F. and Schott, Unveröffentlichte Diplomarbeit.
Huber+Suhner. Unveröffentlichte
H. (1998). Neuer Fokus des Betriebswissenschaftliches Institut
Diplomarbeit. Betriebswissen-
Umweltmanagements – Die zentrale (BWI) der ETH Zürich, Zürich.
schaftliches Institut (BWI) der ETH
Rolle der Produktentwicklung in der
Goedkoop, M. (1995). The Eco- Zürich, Zürich.
Umsetzung des
Indicator 95. Weighting method for
Umweltmanagementsystems nach Züst, R. (1997). Einstieg ins Systems
environmental effects that damage
ISO 14001. In: QZ, 7. Engineering – Systematisch denken,
ecosystems or human health on a
handeln und umsetzen. Verlag
European scale. Pre consultants,
Industrielle Organisation, Zürich.
Amersfoort, Netherlands.



Active disassembly
Joseph Chiodo, Professor Eric Billett and Dr David Harrisonn
Research Scientist, Cleaner Electronics Research, Brunel
Joseph Chiodo is a Research University, UK; Chair in Design, Brunel University, UK; and
Scientist at Cleaner Electronics
Lecturer in the Department of Design, Brunel University, UK
Research, Brunel University, UK,
and doing a PhD in ‘Design for
Environment with Active Industrial recycling is a practice of disassembly’. This research is
Disassembly’. He graduated in 1994 growing importance and impending observing a hierarchical/variable
from Manchester Metropolitan European ‘take-back’ legislation and temperature triggering regime and its
University with an Industrial Design economic pressures are increasing product design implications (Chiodo,
Masters degree in ‘Environmental this. In addition, landfill sites have Billet, Harrison and Harvey, 1998).
Optimization through Industrial become problematic and therefore The aim of this initital project was to
Design’. Since 1988 Joseph has industry needs novel approaches to test a novel form of disassembly on
worked intermittently as a freelance recycling pre and post consumer the casings of consumer electronic
product designer in the UK and waste. As a result, recyclers are products. This form of disassembly is
Canada and he teaches under- working on broadening the range of called ‘active disassembly’. Ideally,
graduate, MA and MBA modules in reusable components from the waste products designed with ‘active
environmentally sensitive design. stream. However, cost constraints disassembly’ in mind have their
limit the number of different products internal designs altered minimally so
Professor Eric Billett holds the
that can be recycled. Future trends in releasable fasteners and actuators
Chair in Design at Brunel
product design engineering point made from ‘smart materials’ can be
University, UK. From his
towards recycling as an integral part incorporated into their assembly.
appointment in 1989 through to
of the life cycle of electronic These smart materials consist of
1997 he was Head of the
consumer products. As the amount shape memory metals or ‘shape
Department of Design, and under
and diversity of electronic products memory alloy’ (SMA) and shape
his leadership the Department
increases dramatically, current memory plastic or polymer (SMP).
developed into the leading design
models of production and These smart material releasable
department in the UK, rated 5 in
dismantling seem outdated. fasteners and actuator devices have
1992 and 5* in 1996. Prior to his
A unique project entitled ‘Active the ability to dynamically change
appointment at Brunel University,
disassembly using smart materials’ shape at specific temperatures and
Professor Billett was head of
was funded by a ‘Blue Skies’ thereby ‘split’ their host candidate
Chemistry at St Mary’s College,
Engineering Physical Sciences products’ macro assemblies.
Strawberry Hill, Twickenham.
Research Council (EPSRC, UK) Throughout the paper the releasable
David Harrison is a Lecturer in grant at the Faculty of Technology, fasteners and actuators made from
the Department of Design, Brunel Department of Design at Brunel smart materials shall be refered to as
University, UK. He holds a BSc in University in the UK. The first phase ‘devices’. When these devices are
Engineering Science from Exeter of the project was completed in 1997 inside candidate products and enter
University and a PhD in Robotics and further funding has been granted the dismantling line at the recycler's
from Portsmouth Polytechnic. He for the second phase. This new two facility, the product's ‘active’ or self-
has held a Westminster Fellowship year EPSRC project started in late disassembly can be triggered by
in the Parliamentary Office of spring 1998 and is investigating appropriate temperatures.
Science and Technology. ‘Design principles for active



Introduction Background – the

his paper reports initial sustainable society
T results in the application of
SMA and SMP smart material
In order to move towards a
sustainable society which is
devices to the active disassembly within the carrying capacity of
of assembled consumer elec- the planet, a drastic revaluation
tronic products. The smart mate- of the throw away ‘consumer
rials considered in this study are society’ is required (Henderson,
alloys of Nickel-Titanium (NiTi), 1996). Crucial to this move
Copper-Zinc-Aluminium Figure 1: Candidate product fitted
towards sustainability is the
(CuZnAl) and SMP made from with a triggered 1-way actuator
reduction of extraction and
polyurethane. In this novel form processing of resources, particu-
of disassembly, two distinct larly raw materials and energy
approaches can be taken when derived from fossil fuels.
planning the eventual disman- Predictions of the necessary
tling of a product. The devices factors of improvement vary
can either be incorporated into extensively from four to twenty
existing product designs (retro- (Chiodo, Ramsey, Simpson,
fitted) or incorporated in the 1997). Achieving these large
product during the design phase factors will require a combina- Figure 2: Triggered NiTi actuator
(design for active disassembly). tion of lifestyle changes, displacement for product separation
Since this was an initial significant breakthroughs in
investigation, the feasibility of technology and different design
retrofitting the devices to processes for problem solving.
assembled products has been Designers have a key role to
explored. The design of the play in Factor ‘X’ reductions
devices, cost effectiveness, range in material and energy use.
of permissible ambient tempera-
A typical design process ranges
tures and triggering temperatures
from the early stages of concept
are each considered key parame-
generation to the later stages of
ters to be improved in future
refinement. In the early stages
research. In this work, general
there are opportunities for Figure 3: After successful disassembly
heat sources (vector air and
significant improvements, experiments
steam jet) between 60–100˚C
whereas the later stages can
(140–212˚F) were employed to
focus on incremental improve-
raise the devices above their
ment. This later stage is typically
triggering temperatures. After
accomplished by engineers.
the full run of experiments,
observations were made detailing
outline design guidelines as a The importance of recycling
starting point to the current
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) has
work. The entire process is best
demonstrated that in many
labelled as ‘active disassembly
products, the disposal phase
using smart materials’ (ADSM).
contributes significantly to the Figure 4: Before experiment, actuators
overall environmental impact inside semi-transparent product



The EU draft
‘take back’
directive states
that 70–90%
by weight of
‘end of life’
electrical and Figure 5: Truncated two-way actuators placed in calculator before experiment

will have to
be recycled.

Figure 6: Full two-way actuators placed in second calculator before experiment

of the product (Hawken, 1993). (AEA Technology, 1997), which

This is particularly the case represents approximately 1% of
where a product contains toxic the total EU solid waste stream
materials (ECTEL, 1997), scarce (ECTEL, 1997).
or valuable materials, or materi-
This problem is common in the
als with a high energy content.
G7 countries and is leading to
‘Waste from Electrical and
various ‘take back’ laws such as
Electronic Equipment’ (WEEE)
obligatory return for large and
often combines all three of these
small appliances in the
situations; for example, toxic
Netherlands in 1999 and 2000
lead solder, cadmium batteries,
respectively (Boks, Nilsson,
precious metals and quality plas-
Keijiro, Suzuki, Rose, Burton,
tics. Furthermore, the quantity
1998). The draft EU ‘take back’
of this waste is rapidly increasing
directive states that 70–90% by
as the number of electronic
weight (depending on the type
products in our lives grows
of waste) of ‘End of Life’ electri-
dramatically. In 1998 the EU was
cal and electronic equipment
expected to produce 6.5 to 7.5
will have to be recycled (EU,
million tonnes per year of WEEE
1998). In Japan, the ‘Appliance



Recycling Law’ is to be ratified disassembly was developed that EOL (perhaps 15 years later)
in 1998 with ‘take back’ to be was not product specific. Ideally the product contains all the
implemented on TVs, refrigera- such a process would be initiated necessary information and
tors, washing machines and air- by a simple triggering incident mechanisms to disassemble
conditioning systems in 2001 and which would lead to an orderly itself following a single generic
computers in 5–10 years (Boks sequence of disassembly events. triggering event such as heat.
et al, 1998). Ultimately, this would result in It will not be necessary for the
the separation of the product dismantler to have a record,
These changes will oblige manu-
into its separate components nor plans of the design for the
facturers to dispose of their
grouped by material type. This EOL disassembly.
products at ‘end of life’ (EOL),
paper considers smart materials
and therefore, create an incen-
as the basis for the implementa-
tive to manage this as efficiently Shape Memory Alloy
tion for this strategy.
as possible.
or Metal (SMA)
SMA is a small group of metals
Design for disassembly Smart materials
made up of two or more metallic
The family of smart materials elements with particularly
Serious research into disassembly
which lend themselves to ‘active remarkable shape change and
began in the early 1990s.
disassembly’ include shape force provision properties. As
Currently, the only options are
memory metals or alloys (SMA) the temperature crosses or
hand disassembly and robotic
and shape memory plastics or changes across a critical value,
disassembly or the combination
polymers (SMP). Below a certain known as a transformation
of the two. Both approaches
‘transformation temperature’ temperature (Tx) they undergo
have had only limited success.
(Tx) (Gilbertson, 1994) they a large and predictable shape
There are profitable and versatile
behave as relatively standard change or so called ‘Shape
dismantling facilities using hand
engineering materials and can be Memory Effect’ (SME).
disassembly with simple mechan-
used in all normal ways; above
ical aids such as hammers and SMAs were invented by the
this critical temperature
drills. However, the proportion American military and are now
however, they undergo a very
of each product recycled is rarely used in a variety of applications
specific shape change that can
very high and there are technical such as spectacle wire frames,
(if required) be reversible if the
and physical limitations on the submarine and fighter jet
temperature is lowered again. It
size, speed and safety of the couplings, military circuit board
is this change of shape above a
process (Boks, Templeman, connector sockets, space station
critical temperature which can
1997). Robotic solutions have connector components, cell
form the basis of active disas-
proven to be costly and phone antennas, teeth braces
inflexible, requiring product and some medical applications.
specific programming, object The major difference between Because of an increasing enve-
orientation and vision recogni- the metals and plastics in this lope of uses, prices have and are
tion systems. Moreover, the context is that the metals can continuing to drop and there-
speed of disassembly is not generate a significant force as fore, exciting new opportunities
significantly improved from they change shape whereas the exist for inexpensive actuators
manual disassembly. However, plastics do not. On the other and fasteners in a range of
robotic disassembly is still under hand the metals are more expen- electronic consumer products.
serious investigation, particularly sive at present. Both materials
The important qualities of SMA
in Japan. are described below.
from a design perspective is that
Consequential advantages would By incorporating smart materials they are corrosion resistant and
be realised if a rapid and simple early in the design process, the in many ways resemble stainless
generic process for product designer can ensure that at the steel. They have the mechanical



Figure 8: SMP compression sleeve

inserted inside injection moulded form
bolt acceptor inside the BT telephone

Figure 9: Slightly undersized bolt

inserted inside SMP compression sleeve
within injection mould assembly bolt
Figure 7: SMA descriptions and results of preliminary disassembly experiments. acceptor inside the BT telephone
These tables describe the characteristics of the SMA devices and the candidate
products used in the experiments. Additionally, the results of these experiments
are described in terms of the forces provided from the SMA devices as well as
the success of the same trials.



strength to form reliable fasten- many different ways and by vary-

ers yet upon exposure to a high ing degrees. As described in the
transformation temperature, they SMA and SMP sections above,
will change form. The critical their SMEs are quite unique. SMP
temperature can be placed is generally a multi-way effect
according to the designer’s and SMA is generally a one and
choice somewhere between –190 two-way effect. These unique
to +190˚C (-310 to +374˚ºF). These characteristics offer designers
limits are due to the current new solutions to products previ-
state of development of SMA. ously requiring dynamics such as
movement and force provisions.
By using smart materials, part
Shape memory polymer reduction is plausible as these
or plastic (SMP) materials provide movement,
SMP is a very small group of shape change and force with one
plastics that can be formed by material. Previously, more parts
the normal processes including would have been required for
injection moulding and with the same function. It must be
properties similar to those found noted that SME is impossible
in Polyurethane, Polypropylene without the temperature expo-
and ABS (Acrylonitrile- sure, therefore the product will
Butadiene-Styrene). not experience SME if the smart
material specified has a Tx above
SMP was invented in Japan and
normal operating temperatures.
has become commercially avail-
able in the last couple of years. One-way SME
Currently SMP is used in the Materials that recover to the
design of automatic carburettor original form one or more times
chokes and utensils handles. after exposure to heat. In one-
Medical and many other way effects, the material would
applications are becoming have to be forcibly re-shaped in
recognised as SMP becomes more order to recover again.
fully commercially exploited.
Two-way SME
‘Shape Memory Effect’ (SME) in
Materials that can recover many
SMP is different from in SMA.
times to the original form and
Plastics above their transforma-
deform again to a secondary
tion temperature or glass
form after exposure to a specific
transition temperature (Tg) loose
temperature or stimulus repeat-
their mechanical strength and
edly. The amount of successful
return to their originally formed
times the material can recover
shape. Unlike the metals, the
and reform again depends
plastics do not provide
primarily on the material, extent
significant force accompanying
of deformation and the extent of
this triggering procedure.
heat. The designer has many
options with two-way devices Figure 10: Showing various stages of
Shape Memory Effect (SME) since the devices can take the the SMP disassembly experiment with
place of switches or more a standard BT telephone
SME can be categorised three
complex mechanisms requiring
ways; one, two and multi-way
more than one moving part. The
SME. The ‘effect’ happens in



Experiments with Shape

Memory Alloy (SMA)
A number of experiments were
conducted with SMA devices,
applying them to the active disas-
sembly of electronic products.
SMP before SME
The initial experiments investi-
gated releasing socketed
before SME SMP during SME
Integrated Circuits (ICs) from
Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) and
a PCB sub-assembly. A further
series of experiments attempted
the disassembly of product
housings. Both 1- and 2-way SME
SMAs were used, alloys of
during SME Nickel-Titanium (NiTi) and
NiTi SMA (CuZnAl) respectively.
after SME Smart
material device
NiTi SMA allowances
before SME SMA results
Figures 1, 2 and 3 indicate the
NiTi 1-way SMA actuators whilst
Figures 4, 5 and 6 indicate the
CuZnAl 2-way actuators. The
results are summarised in Figure
7 (Chiodo, Anson, Billett,
Harrison, Perkins, 1997).
In initial experiments to eject
chips from PCBs, it proved
Figure 11: General outline guidelines for design for active disassembly
impossible to develop sufficient
forces with the actuators to over-
come the frictional forces. This
external stimulus for the trans- shapes such as is the case for
was primarily because of the
formation is temperature change SMPs. One could view the vari-
limited size of actuator which
(heat). able nature of SME in SMP as
could be positioned below the
metamorphic (Spillman, Sirkis,
Multi-way SME chips. NiTi rod actuators worked
Gardiner, 1996). This characteris-
Here the material acts the same successfully to disassemble small
tic provides the most exciting
as in the two-way states except electronic products including a
possibility for designers as SMP
the material may be formable to personal organiser and calcula-
could be considered a ‘live’
more shapes depending on the tors. These 0.5 gram actuators
material. A smart material with
extent of the external stimuli provided very high forces (62– 64
the ability to take on different
(heat and force). Sometimes in N) over a displacement of 5mm.
forms on demand.
this case the material may be Therefore for further trial
altered infinitely into different purposes, it was decided to



After manually disassembling and incorporating devices into the test products, examinations were made for
an outline of general methodology for design modifications. It was found that the test products would best
incorporate ‘active disassembly using smart materials’ (ADSM) when designing with the general
considerations below:

· avoid alloys / combination materials · standard grab points · accessibility

· controlled break points · compression hinges · modularity
· over-specification reduction · general simplification · miniaturisation
· hierarchy of subassemblies · reusable components · separate materials
· vinculum strength reduction · toxic material elimination · eliminate adhesives
· isolation of costly materials · undamaged component disassembly · reversible fasteners
· component/material type reductions · moulding material fasteners

Although the above considerations are useful for active and other disassembly methods, there are a number
of specific factors relating to ADSM. These include:
· actuators should be placed in and around the fastening element
· actuators should be placed such that the actuator temperatures correspond to hierarchy of sub-assemblies
· location specific force provision
· force provision must surpass tensile force in fastening elements of the constituent assemblies
· vectorial passage for ambient temperatures are necessary to induce SME
· average to tight tolerancing for memory devices
· locators and seats for memory devices
· passage for clean separation
· temperature/time balance affects the structural integrity of the product and the disassembly procedure
· trigger temperatures must be specified for a timely active disassembly
· use of a non-specific disassembly line would optimise the potential of ADSM
· design of memory devices depend on product applications for best disassembly results;
some standardisation can be investigated however
· generally, SMA actuators and SMP releasable fasteners would be in the low temperature state in a
product in use at a typical ambient temperature range of -50 to approx. +90˚C.

Figure 12: Outline design guidelines checklist for design for active disassembly

employ lower cost, lower force- active disassembly of various methods. All experiments proved
actuators. Cu-based helical products. The initial experiments disassembly within seconds of
(spring shape) actuators also investigated the releasing of being exposed to Tg (SMP trans-
provide sufficient force to PCBs and housing assemblies of formation temperature) or
actively disassemble calculator product housings. higher > +55˚ºC (+131˚F) . It is
cases. envisaged that higher
temperatures outside of normal
SMP results operating temperatures would
Experiments with Shape Initial experiments to release need to be used for many
Memory Polymer Releasable PCBs from opened product hous- applications.
Fasteners ing assemblies proved successful.
SMP experiments shown in
Numerous experiments were The SMP holding brackets
Figures 8, 9 and 10 are those
conducted with SMP releasable replaced the screw assemblies
employed in the second set of
fasteners applying them to the used in current production
experiments. These SMP sleeves



were placed inside the bolt permit a cheaper fastening

With future assembly with the bolt slightly mechanism (see Figures 11 and
undersized. This was an applica- 12). Design for conventional and
development, tion to trial smart material active disassembly use similar
usage with absolutely minimum design outline guidelines and
the average changes to current manufactur- require only minimal changes to
ing methods. existing designs. SMA and/or SMP
product SMP releasable fasteners in the
devices or actuators could be
implemented surrounding a
form of compression sleeves
disassembly worked successfully to disassem-
snap-fastened assembly. The
bottom mould would have incor-
ble large product housings such
times could as the BT telephone (see Figures
porated air allowances near the
actuator/snap fastener assembly.
8 and 9). This disassembly appli-
This would ideally encourage
be reduced cation provided releases between
15 and 135 seconds (see Figure
actuation of the devices on a
dismantling line upon the EOL.
to less than 10). All experiments were
performed at room temperature;
The product could travel in one
direction through a ‘heat’ cham-
+22 to +23.5˚ºC (+72 to +74˚F). A
one second. heating probe, +100˚ºC (+212˚ºF),
ber being exposed to increased
actuation or transformation
was applied to the single bolt
temperature. This type of
assembly. The assembly bolt
disassembly leaves undamaged
temperature was between 43˚ºC
components. The whole process
(+109˚ºF) and 45˚ºC (+113˚ºF) after
encourages the separation of
disassembly. The 15–135 second
dissimilar materials. For ‘Outline
disassembly time range is
Design Guidelines’, see Figures 11
attributed to the reforming of
and 12.
the SMP compression sleeve
used. More accurate reforming
would significantly reduce this Costs
range in time.
Current SMA prices are a relevant
With future development, the issue for cost effective disassem-
average product disassembly bly. The high volume prices per
times could be reduced to less gram for the SMAs used here
than one second! were for NiTi approximately 20¢
US (£0.15 UK), for CuZnAl 4¢ US
(£0.03 UK). Each gram of
Design implication
CuZnAl provided up to 5
The experiments showed that, in Newtons (N) with a reasonably
principle, smart materials could optimised actuator design. The
be used to actively disassemble NiTi provided slightly over 142 N
small electronic products. per gram at five times the cost
Working prototypes of a variety without optimising the design.
of component ejectors and Here, Cu-based devices cost 0.8¢
releasable fasteners were per N whilst NiTi costed 0.1408¢
produced, and used successfully per N at the time of testing.
in disassembly trials.
Small order SMP prices are at
In all cases, optimised designs about $60 US (£37.50) a kilo but,
would use less material and



volume purchasing would lower would create a larger role for work is now under way.
this price to the same as typical them in the life cycle of
engineering polymers. consumer electronics. As ‘take
Furthermore, prices of smart back’ legislation becomes EU law
materials are coming down as (within the next one to five years Active disassembly would widen
production and applications time depending on the member the range of recyclable electronic
increase. Future work will state), a wider reaching recycling consumer products, it would
explore the optimisation of the technology makes more sense. As significantly increase the volume
design of actuators in active recycling becomes an integral of recycled material used in
disassembly observing cost and a part of the product life cycle, a manufacturing new products and
more detailed application on a generic recycling process is most potentially reduce recycling cost
range of consumer electronic likely to be the most profitable and cost per new product.
products including communica- way forward. With the amount
Most of the ‘active disassembly’
tion products. and diversity of electronic prod-
devices are cheap and could
ucts increasing dramatically,
This investigation produced a prove to be a very valuable
current models of production
novel and fundamentally differ- investment. Additionally, the
and dismantling are cost heavy.
ent product disassembly tech- smart material actuators and
The changes to the product that
nique which provided a new devices are highly re-usable,
will allow active disassembly
means of dismantling a variety of costs too would divide every
create either little or no cost
constituent product assemblies. time the devices are re-used.
increases. This provides an excel-
Current disassembly practice is
lent driver for manufacturers and In ‘active disassembly’ the cost
largely by hand. Usually about
recyclers. As product design engi- added to some products may be
80% of the cost of such disas-
neering points towards recycling a few cents/pence but, most
sembly is attributed to labour.
as an integral part of the life products’ costs would not
Robotic disassembly research is
cycle, active disassembly provides change significantly in volume
currently under development,
a considerable cost advantage manufacturing.
but has so far been shown to be
over current dismantling The generic nature of the process
very expensive as it requires
schemes. would mean that a single
dedicated dismantling facilities.
This condition makes recycling Active disassembly addresses all dismantling centre could accept
prohibitive and difficult in a low of these issues and has revealed products from a variety of manu-
profit margin industry. the potential for non-specific factures in a single disassembly
dismantling. Therefore, there is line. This would mean that the
potential for the associated lower transportation costs of returning
Role of recyclers costs of a generic disassembly the products to the manufactur-
Recyclers currently recycle a facility such as that used in ers could be minimised. This last
range of consumer products ADSM. A third-party dismantler aspect is very important as a
salvaging precious metals from could recycle a variety of compa- journey of more than a
PCBs and ICs. Some further nies’ consumer products at the few miles can consume more
dismantling is done on larger end of their useful life cycle. resources than are saved by
material/value intensive products Products could then be economi- recovering the materials
such as large appliances, comput- cally recycled as their dissimilar embodied in the product.
ers and their cathode ray tubes and contaminated materials are ‘Environmental Impact
(CRT). However, cost constraints separated. The success of this Reduction’ (EIR) and cost reduc-
still limit the number of different project has led to a patent (UK tion/efficiency are obviously the
products that can be recycled 2,320,277). A small group of elec- key issues in LCA. As legislation
profitably. Broadening this range tronic consumer product manu- points towards producer respon-
would significantly increase profit facturers have expressed interest sibility, recycling as an integral
for recyclers and consequently in testing potential applications; part of the life cycle of



electronic consumer products discharging the product in say, electrical and electronic equip-
becomes a more attractive Europe or North America. For ment locally would significantly
possibility. example, it would not be envi- reduce the environmental impact
ronmentally beneficial to discard and cost. Active disassembly
For a successful reverse logistics
an automobile or computer by could provide this and become
infrastructure to be developed it
bringing them back to Japan after an important driver to a more
is important that a manufacturer
a 15 year life in Europe or US. environmentally responsible
in say, Japan, should be able to
form of product stewardship. •
discard the responsibility of Recycling resources from

Chiodo, J. D., Billett, E. H., Harrison, AEA Technology, ‘Recovery of WEEE: Boks, C.B., & Tempelman, E., ‘Future
D. J., and Harrey, P. M., Economic and Environmental Disassembly and Recycling
‘Investigations of Generic Self Impacts. Final Report A report Technology for the Electronics and
Disassembly Using Shape Memory produced for the European Automotive Industry’, (The
Alloys: 1998 IEEE Int’l Symposium on Commission DG XI’, (EU, June, 1997). Netherlands: Internal document
Electronics and the Environment – code K370, Faculty of Industrial
The European Trade Organisation for
ISEE – 1998’ (Oak Brook, Chicago, Il, Design Engineering, Delft University
the Telecommunications and
USA., 4–6 May 1998), pp. 82–87. of Technology, April 1997), pp. 9–16.
Professional Electronics Industry
Henderson, H., ‘Building a Win-Win (ECTEL) ‘End-of-Life Management of R.G. Gilbertson, ‘Muscle Wires
World: Perfecting Democracy’s Cellular Phones – an industry Project Book’ (Mondo-tronics, Inc.:
Tools’ (San Fransisco: Berrett- perspective and response’ (England: San Anselmo, CA., 1994), pp. 2–7.
Koehler, 1996), p. 247. industry publication, 1997), p. 23, 39.
Chiodo, J. D., Anson, A.W., Billett, E.
Chiodo, J.D., Ramsey, B.J. and Boks, C.B., Nilsson, J., Keijiro, M., H., Harrison, D. J., and Perkins. M.,
Simpson, P., ‘The Development of a Suzuki, K., Rose, C. and Burton, H. L., ‘Eco-Design for Active Disassembly
Step Change Design Approach to ‘An International Comparison of Using Smart Materials: Int’l
Reduce Environmental Impact Product End-of-Life Scenarios and Conference on Shape Memory and
through Provision of Alternative Legislation for Consumer Electronics: Superelastic Technologies’ (Pacific
Processes and Scenarios for 1998 IEEE Int’l Symposium on Grove, CA, USA., 2–6 March 1997), p.
Industrial Designers: ICSID’97 The Electronics and the Environment – 272.
Humane Village Congress’ (Toronto, ISEE – 1998’ (Oak Brook, Chicago, Il,
Spillman Jr. W. B., Sirkis, J. S. and
ON, Canada, 23–27 August, 1997), in USA., 4–6 May 1998), p. 20.
Gardiner, P. T., ‘Smart materials and
WEEE-7/8/98, EU: Second Draft, structures: what are they: Smart
Hawken, P., ‘The Ecology of Proposal for a Directive on Waste Materials & Structures, V. 5, no. 3,
Commerce – A Declaration of from Electrical and Electronic (Istitute of Physics Publishing, June
Sustainability’ (New York: Harper Equipment Council Directive of 7 1996) p. 248.
Collins,1993), pp. 45–46. August 1998.

The European Trade Organisation for Boks, C.B., Nilsson, J., Keijiro, M.,
the Telecommunications and Suzuki, K., Rose, C. and Burton, H. L.,
Professional Electronics Industry ‘An International Comparison of
(ECTEL) ‘End-of-Life Management of Product End-of-Life Scenarios and
Cellular Phones – an industry Legislation for Consumer Electronics:
perspective and response’ (England: 1998 IEEE Int’l Symposium on
industry publication, 1997), p.25. Electronics and the Environment –
ISEE – 1998’ (Oak Brook, Chicago, Il,
USA., 4–6 May 1998), p. 20.



Sustainable furniture

Woodschool timber utilisation project

The Woodschool project is an example of a sustainable design service where the

products are locally and sustainably grown, designed and manufactured using low
grade and waste hardwoods. The project is a reflection of the need to optimise the
use of woodland resources from sustainably managed forests. Oak, ash, elm and
beech are made into innovative high ‘value added’ quality furniture. The Woodschool
project was established under the umbrella of the Borders Forest Trust (BFT) initia-
tive. BFT was formed in 1996 in response to sustained public commitment to native
woodland restoration in the Scottish Borders. The diverse range of BFT projects
reflects the growing recognition that native woodland is a land use, bringing tangible
social, economic and environmental benefits to local communities in rural Scotland.
Profits from Woodschool are covenanted to the Trust for the creation of new
Top: Borderline chairs community woodlands and the development of other environmental projects across
Below: River tables the region.

Sustainable grown furniture

Christopher Cattle, furniture


Furniture designer, Christopher Cattle

has been ‘growing’ wooden furniture for
small scale production. He does this by
using jigs to control the forms into which
the young tree grows, and by grafting
joints. Two experimental schemes are
currently running in Britain, with the aim
of investigating the viability of such a
system. The scheme is examining such
aspects as the suitability of various tree
species and the structural integrity of the
grafted joints. The key aim of the project
is to find a commercially viable sustain-
able production method which will be of
benefit to rural communities in the
Developed and Third Worlds. The ‘start
up’ benefits of such a scheme are that it
requires mechanisation of limited scale
Sketch showing general arrangement of seven part plywood with the greatest investment required
jig used to control growth of seat 2 experimental structures being land, time and manpower.



Peter James, Director,

Sustainable Business
Centre, UK
Martin Chartern
Joint Coordinator, The Centre for Sustainable Design, UK

Eco-efficiency is becoming which can help achieve it – such

a very popular idea with as ‘Local Exchange Trading
business – what’s your view Systems’ (LETS) schemes or
on this? sustainability-shaped car hire or
leasing initiatives. Sticks means
t’s fine as far it goes – which
I tends to be a focus on getting
better resource productivity in
internalising environmental
costs, creating ‘economic
subsidiarity’ – a presumption by
Peter James describes himself as a existing processes and products.
governments, takeover authori-
‘virtual person’, an independent who But we should interpret it more
ties and others that economic
regularly works with the universities of broadly. As Claude Fussler of
activity should be conducted at
Bradford and Wolverhampton (where Dow argues, the real long-term
the lowest possible level – and
he holds visiting professorships in opportunities lie in eco-innova-
also creating demand ‘ceilings’
environmental management), Ashridge tion – designing new products
for some products. The US
Management Research and the UK and processes that meet
experience of demand side
Centre for Environment and Economic consumer needs in different,
management in electricity,
Development (UKCEED). He previously smarter ways and produce orders
especially in California, has been
worked in business schools in Britain of magnitude improvement in
interesting in showing how this
and Ireland and as a science journalist, eco-efficiency. Most companies
could work – although its now
initially with BBC Television and also divorce eco-efficiency from
breaking down as a result of
subsequently as a freelancer. His the social dimensions of sustain-
co-authored publications include ‘The ability. And, as road transport
Green Bottom Line: Environmental shows, you can become ever But perhaps most important is
Accounting in Business’ and more efficient but still increase changes in the big ‘field’, ie. the
‘Environment under the Spotlight: overall impacts because values which drive our consump-
Current Practice and Future Trends in consumption continues to soar. tion. And the big target here is
Environment-related Performance mobility – as societies and indi-
How do you think we can
Measurement’ (ACCA) as well as many viduals (including me!) we have
achieve sustainable
articles and papers on environmental to put less emphasis on travel.
performance evaluation, accounting, Unfortunately, the problem is
product development and sustainable With difficulty – few companies created just as much by the
business. His current research includes are ever going to voluntarily apparently anti-establishment
a European project on the development restrict demand! So it has to be a ‘Lonely Planets’ and ‘Rough
of eco-services combination of carrots and sticks Guides’ as by multinationals or
and work with BT on tele- – and the fields they grow in. the airline industry. I suspect
communications and Agenda 21. Carrots include support or that the solution will be more
protected space for innovations virtual travel and that middle



class values may need to become – mainly energy, materials, Issue 2 (JSPD 2, July 1997) is one
less rather than more cosmo- hazardous substances and attempt to create such an
politan. A slightly unpleasant sustainable resources. The approach.
kind of ‘green regionalism’ may difficulties come when you
You’re now working on eco-
be necessary – our place is best consider how to measure, what
services – is a move to services
and we don’t want to know too kind of detail is required, the
the essence of sustainable
much about yours because if we weightings you put on different
do we’ll want to travel. kinds of impact and extending it
into the social dimensions of Yes – and there is great potential
What about social
sustainability. And the answers – but we need to be careful.
depend upon your objectives. Some services can be eco-
It’s difficult enough to get a Sometimes you want precise efficient but drive higher
consensus about environment ‘dial’ measures so that you can consumption. If you take
between different countries, control and fine tune. But in telecommunications-based
cultures and religions and this is other cases we may want ‘can services such as videoconferenc-
even more pronounced on social opener’ measures that get us into ing or e-mail, for example, they
issues. I think the debate about a problem and help us to priori- seem eco-efficient because their
sustainability and how we assess tise and see the main issues but direct effect is to substitute
it has been dominated to date by don’t always need a lot of preci- information flows for physical
western and western-influenced sion. One problem with LCA is resources. But their indirect
groups. A ‘world ethic’ of that it often gives us a dial when effects can be problematic –
sustainability will need to be we need a can opener to reveal because you need to see people
constructed from Asian and Latin the broad pattern of impacts and less often you might relocate to
American, Islamic and Confucian help to prioritise action. a nice but remote area and make
roots as well as from a European/ fewer but longer trips so that
The various LCA-based eco-
North American and Christian, distance remains the same. And,
points packages can also be valu-
Jewish or other secular positions. just as we now know that new
able for some specific purposes
The implication is that designers road construction ultimately
but are often dangerous because
and others need flexible rather fuels demand for road transport,
of their hidden assumptions.
than rigid criteria that can so the building of information
How do you rate Polyvinyl
accommodate these differences. 'superhighways' might generate
Chloride (PVC) for example?
I suggested five of these – life more rather than less travel. It's
Fairly benign according to one
chances, basic needs, social nice – and profitable – to meet
popular package I’ve used – but
norms, human capital and auton- the new contacts around the
of course very bad in the eyes of
omy and community – in a world made possible by e-mail
many environmentalists, because
recent article for the Journal and lower phone costs. The same
of the health concerns. The
(JSPD 2, July 1997) but there’s trends can also make it as easy to
outcome is what I call ‘spurious
much scope for refinement and trade with – and transport goods
precision’ – apparent precision
of course other good evaluation to and from – another continent
that underlies basic gaps in
schemes around. as the next county.
knowledge and/or disagreement
How can we measure about what is known. So we So unless framework conditions
sustainability issues in need ways of measuring that, to are right – such as, in the case of
eco-design? highlight rather than suppress transport, adequate public trans-
uncertainty and disagreement. port, internalising the full costs
On the environmental side,
Qualitative rather than quantiti- of pollution and some degree of
there’s an emerging consensus
tative approaches can often be road pricing – I’d assume that
on what should be measured.
best for this. The ‘Sustainability any service, however eco-
Most of the schemes which are
Wheel’ which I wrote about in efficient, will tend to increase
around focus on the same areas



consumption in the longer term. social norms to highlight this And the design context in Japan
Many eco-efficient services are issue. More broadly, I think that – crowded cities, small homes,
also dependent upon intensive Asia and Japan in particular will an aesthetic appreciation of
deployment of information and become much bigger influences fragility and the miniature, a
communication technologies. on eco-design and eco-services. high awareness of dependence
Hence they increase society’s Not because of overt environ- on imported materials – is
electronic dependence – which mental action or awareness – perhaps more intrinsically
may be OK but is certainly worth although, even with the current supportive of dematerialised and
thinking about. economic crisis, I think overall smart products and services than
Japan is no worse and possibly say America or Sweden. Because,
The move to leasing or hiring
‘better off’ than other developed let’s face it, the future of the
instead of buying which much of
countries. And other Asian coun- planet isn’t going to be deter-
the eco-services literature has
tries are no different than mined by what people value and
focused on is also interesting but
European ones in similar stages buy in countries such as Canada
potentially problematic. There’s
of development. But because of or Italy but in those such as
a lot of consumer resistance –
‘uninentional sustainability’ – Brazil, China and India which
producer goods may be a better
environmental and social have high populations and legiti-
bet for real change – and it’s not
improvements which occur as mate expectations of a better
always environmentally
by-products of other changes. In life.
beneficial. Hiring or leasing cars,
environment, for example,
for example, can lead them to Are you optimistic or
Japanese society and business (as
being driven more and harder pessimistic about achieving
with German society and busi-
than when people own them. sustainable development?
ness) still tends to have longer-
We hope to get a better under-
term perspectives – which is vital Both! Optimistic because one has
standing of all these issues in the
for environmental improvement to be and also because it’s
European project we’re just
– compared to say Britain or becoming clear that clever poli-
America. I’d also say that the cies and new technologies and
You’ve stressed the need for historical values in Japanese soci- products can drastically reduce
a more international and ety are far more compatible with environmental impacts.
diverse approach to sustain- sustainability than the west’s Pessimistic – or at least
able business. What are generally nature-hostile Judaeo- concerned – because their
the implications of this for Christian heritage. After all dependence on high technology,
eco-design? Tokugawa Japan – which pros- particularly on information and
pered while turning its back on communications technologies,
As I’ve said, more flexible criteria
foreign trade and subsisting on may create fairly atomised,
– and also building the cultural
the country’s own carrying stunted and unfair societies.
issues into evaluation processes.
capacity – is arguably the only We’ll need good social design as
In the ‘Sustainability Wheel’, for
example we’ve ever seen of a well as eco-design to prevent
example, there’s a category of
large-scale sustainable society. them. •



Experiments in
sustainable product design
Stuart Walkern
Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Design,
The University of Calgary, Canada

Sustainable product design (SPD) ‘... design holds the potential to

is being approached in many ways create, not new objects, but a newly
but often, it seems, there is more responsible social order.’
attention given to related but Alexander Manu, Designer,
peripheral aspects, such as Canada
technological innovations or
t is a fruitless task to try to

Stuart Walker is Associate Professor

analysis methodologies, rather
than to ‘designing’ itself. This lack
I define SPD – there is no
common essence and it is
of emphasis on designing as a
of Industrial Design in the Faculty of inappropriate to try to find one.
process of exploration and
Environmental Design at The University Sustainability, and hence SPD,
discovery, and its relationship to
of Calgary where he teaches industrial encompasses a great diversity of
sustainability does a disservice to
design technologies, drawing and approaches which will vary with
this vital, creative activity in which
presentation techniques, sustainable place, time, environment,
diverse and often disparate ideas
product design and design studio at the culture and knowledge. No one
find synthesis in material form.
graduate level. He is a member of the knows what a sustainable society
publications committee of the Industrial The artefacts presented here
will look like – we can only
Designers Society of America, guest address various aspects of SPD and
speculate on possibilities from
editor of the Innovation journal and form the basis of the discussion.
our present standpoint. As we
adviser to Alberta Education in design They demonstrate that products
work towards achieving a
studies. His work on sustainable suited to local production (an
sustainable society our knowl-
product design has been presented important facet of sustainability)
edge and understandings will
and published in North America, are both feasible and can add a
increase, and so our vision of
Europe and China. He holds an MDes richness to our material culture that
sustainability will evolve – the
(RCA), the Diploma of Imperial College is lacking in much contemporary
goal posts will keep moving, as it
and a PhD from the University of Leeds. product design. These explorations
were. Sustainability is thus a
start to show that environmental
fluid, dynamic, unfocussed goal –
and social concerns can be respon-
and this is the way it has to be –
sibly addressed through design and
any attempt to define a vision of
that product aesthetics can begin
a sustainable society will always
to reflect the ethical core of
fall short.
Similarly, any one approach to
SPD will be incomplete. Some
current approaches focus on



product life cycle assessment compete in today’s market place.

The following (LCA), others on product Rather, they are academic
longevity or ‘design for disassem- explorations which, through the
examples are bly’ or the use of activity of designing, examine
recycled materials. All these are possibilities for creating products
designs for important and can make a contri- for local use, repair and recycling
bution but all are inadequate. The within a general notion of a
everyday author has attempted to translate sustainable community scenario.
ideas about sustainability into
‘Exploratory practical work (as
functional product prototypes and to inter-
pret the abstract, theoretical
design research) is a good alternative
to conventional practice. I do not go
products. ideas in the creation of tangible,
material objects which is the
along with a view often promoted in
higher education that teachers of
important aspect of investigative
They utilise design work.
design have to be practitioners.’
Professor Nigel Cross, Open
commonly The designs presented here are
centred on the notion of local
University, UK

production. Local production for The resulting designs are not

available local markets has many environ- readily classified. They are not
mental and social benefits and typical product designs for
materials, has been identified by various mechanised production – that is,
authors as one of the main industrial design. Nor are they
off-the-shelf features of a sustainable society craft designs – little or no
(eg. Van Der Ryn and Cowan, traditional craft skills are
parts, simple 1996 and Hawken, 1993). Three required to produce them. These
artefacts represent a kind of
crucially important guiding prin-
tools and the ciples of sustainability are:
· environmental stewardship
hybrid category which draws on
elements of mass-production,

notion of local · social equity semi-mechanised production and

hand-fabrication. Mass-produced
· development – rather than
parts are combined with locally
labour rather growth (Roseland, 1992).
produced components, re-used
These principles have been used items and/or recycled materials.
than highly by the author, together with Again, this seems appropriate
work done by Urban Planners in when we talk about SPD. In
mechanised the development of ‘Sustainable
Community Scenarios’ to explore
working towards sustainability
we should be drawing on many
production. what sustainability means in
terms of product design. The
existing procedures and tech-
niques and modifying them and
following examples are designs adapting them, but not necessar-
for everyday functional products. ily rejecting them. Many of the
They utilise commonly available negative consequences of our
materials, ‘off the shelf’ parts, current, evidently unsustainable,
simple tools and the notion of approaches are not necessarily
local labour rather than highly due to inherently harmful
mechanised production. They are methods but due to a lack of
not conceived as commercially balance or moderation in their
viable designs which can use.



Figure 1: Arc Lamp – a task lamp from bamboo canes and reused components

The thesis of sustainability cultural and community identity product which bears the marks
recognises that labour is rela- – ‘community’ being an impor- of time and use and its own
tively expensive but it also tant aspect of sustainability history could, potentially, have a
points out that current auto- (Nozick, 1992). richness lacking in squeaky clean
mated production methods fail products. However, in order to
These designs therefore
to include the so-called ‘exter- appreciate this richness we will
represent a shift in the way we
nalities’ in the economics have to readjust our value system
think about product manufactur-
(pollution, social consequences and our expectations of product
ing in terms of our scales of
of unemployment, etc.). Thus, aesthetics.
production, the provision of
the costs of current mass-
fulfilling employment, social In these ‘experiments’ various
produced products are kept
responsibilities and use of aspects of SPD have been
artificially low because aspects
materials. The resulting products explored:
important to achieving sustain-
also tend to challenge our
ability are not taken into
preconceptions of aesthetics –
account. Local production (using
which, in contemporary product
Inventiveness of necessity
local materials, producing prod-
design, are closely linked to the Sustainability demands resource-
ucts for local use) allows reduc-
notion of ‘newness’. SPD fulness and restraint. New
tions in transportation and pack-
explores reuse of materials, solutions have to be found
aging, facilitates recycling,
re-manufacturing and product which require less. In the Arc
inverse manufacture and cyclic
longevity. If we begin to create Lamp (Figures 1–3) the flexibility
use of materials and parts, local
long lasting products made from of movement was attained using
maintenance and repair. It also
re-used materials and parts, then a simple arc of wire over a
allows products to be adapted to
we will have to reassess our fulcrum. The arc shifts the
local needs and to reflect local or
ideas of products and the value balance point as the lamp-head
regional aesthetic preferences.
and place of the ‘new’, the is raised or lowered. The arc
This, in turn, contributes to
glossy and the ‘perfect’. A replaces the relatively complex



friction or spring mechanisms represents only one side of our

frequently used in task lamps. humanity. We can appreciate the
The motion is wide ranging and precision but there is often little
flowing – the action is delicate, or no sense of empathy or ‘reso-
poised, bird-like. Construction is nance’. The intuitive gesture, the
from bamboo garden canes, a spontaneous, the improvised –
food tin (lamp shade), a water- all are driven by an energy,
pipe and two corks (counter- vigour, momentum and enthusi-
weight) and a cast concrete base. asm which are unavoidably lack-
Electrical parts are standard, ‘off ing in fastidious, highly consid-
the shelf’ components. ered work. And of course when a
product is being put into produc-
tion in the tens or hundreds of
Improvisation and thousands using expensive tool-
spontaneity ing and aimed at worldwide
The constraints of limited markets, everything has to be
resources – materials, processes carefully planned and controlled.
Figure 2: Arc Lamp – raised position and tools – combined with a Here, then, is another reason for
realisation that most contempo- reconsidering our scales of
rary products are actually a phys- production. Smaller scale
ical manifestation of unsustain- production for local markets
able practices – can create a allows us to adopt approaches to
liberating environment in which design and manufacturing which
to reconsider the nature of permit these aspects of design,
objects. The ‘Kind of Blue’ chair and ourselves, to be re-intro-
(Figures. 4–6) is an exercise in duced. This helps ensure a
improvisation, spontaneity, ‘wholeness’ in the creation of
‘making-do’ and the inclusion of our material environment – it
‘chance’. enables products to be a more
Figure 3: Arc Lamp – adjustment detail ‘There is a Japanese visual art in complete expression of our
which the artist is forced to be spon- material needs – needs which
taneous... The resulting pictures lack extend far beyond the utilitarian.
the complex composition and textures ‘[Ruskin] thought that liveliness
of ordinary painting, but it is said and vigour and the positive mark of
that those who see will find something humanity were manifested in rough
captured that escapes explanation... work.’
direct deed is the most meaningful Martina Margetts, writer, US
Bill Evans, jazz pianist, UK In the case of the ‘Kind of Blue’
chair, the individual pieces of
There is a strong relationship wood, comprising off-cuts or
between intuitive, extemporised, found pieces, were used as they
‘rough’ design work and sustain- came to hand, in the form and
ability. Minutely considered, size they happened to occur.
meticulously justified, ‘honed’ Fastenings are nails, glue or
design may have a certain kind of screws; and the geometry of
beauty but in many respects it a construction ensures stability.
sterile, lifeless beauty which



Figure 5: ‘Kind of Blue’ chair – construction detail Figure 6: ‘Kind of Blue’ chair – rear view

Aesthetic longevity and of opportunity afforded by the

material to maintain or repair
Smaller scale
Many contemporary products
the surface can compound this
sense of discontent. Thus, the
production for
rely on shiny, highly polished,
product will often be replaced
‘new’ surfaces for their visual
because of its appearance – local markets…
appeal. Automobiles, audio
it has become prematurely
equipment, kitchen appliances
and furniture are common
‘aesthetically obsolete’ due enables
to its surface qualities.
examples. However, mono-
chromatic, glossy surfaces, on There are various ways to address
this issue, which is another
painted metals and moulded
plastics, are delicate and highly important facet of SPD. Above, is to be a more
susceptible to marring. Any discussed ‘rough’ work from the
bumps, scratches or dents are point of view of spontaneity and complete
immediately obvious and the improvisation, however, ‘rough’
accumulation of tiny surface surfaces can also contribute to expression of
scratches, caused when using or aesthetic longevity. Surfaces
cleaning the object, will eventu- which are ‘unfinished’ or created
from reused parts or recovered
our material
ally dull the surface. And it is
usually a difficult task to main-
tain or repair such a surface once
materials – as in the ‘Kind of
Blue’ chair – are often able to
needs – needs
absorb wear and tear in ways
it is marked. This deterioration
of surface quality can cause a which do not detract from the which extend
overall appearance of the object.
sense of dissatisfaction in the
owner or user. Even though the One more scratch on a varie- far beyond the
product might still be function- gated, irregular surface that is an
ing well, the appearance can integral part of the object’s utilitarian.
seem scruffy and drab. The lack design, will be unlikely to cause



aesthetic dissatisfaction. Hence, batteries are being discarded,

reused materials can be often after only a few hours
employed in aesthetically of use. Even if rechargeable
sensitive ways to create objects batteries are substituted for
whose surfaces are able to disposables, the losses incurred
absorb abuse. But it should be in recharging represents an
noted that the aesthetic qualities imprudent use of energy. These
of such surfaces will be quite inefficient, wasteful and harmful
different from those of the practices are a common feature
artificially ‘distressed’ surface, of non-sustainable product
which is often applied to create design.
the impression that the object is
The ‘Cable Radio’, (Figures 7), is
older than it really is. The
a design for a ‘mains-powered’
spurious or bogus quality of such
radio. Part of the design
surfaces suggests an affectation
challenge was to resolve two
or pretentiousness – the result-
seemingly contradictory
ing objects lack authenticity and
elements. On the one hand, the
Figure 7: Cable Radio – could be seen as a form of
small size of contemporary
three-quarter view kitsch.
components and circuitry allows
Another, related way of the product envelope to be quite
addressing the issue of aesthetic small. On the other hand, a
durability is to provide a ‘mains-powered’, and only
complex surface that is easily ‘mains-powered’, product is not
maintained. In the ‘Cable Radio’, a portable object. It is therefore
(Figures 7) the casing is important to convey this idea –
constructed from a coarse that the object has a ‘place’. The
particle-board which yields an inclusion of the long legs and
irregularly, randomly patterned the use of the power cable as a
surface when polished. This visual element articulates the
surface can withstand minor non-portability of the product.
scratches and knocks without The housing for the electronics
detracting from the appearance and speaker is relatively small
of the object. Furthermore, the and is positioned at an appropri-
surface can be easily maintained ate height for ease of operation
by the owner and ‘revamped’ and for listening.
with a cloth and polish.

Local manufacture –
Energy use forms and fastenings
Miniaturisation of electronic suited to basic tools
components over the years All the designs presented here
means that we now live with are capable of being manufac-
a profusion of small, portable, tured at locally based ‘gener-
battery driven products. The alised’ production facilities
widespread use of portable capable of producing diverse
radios, music systems, personal products, in relatively low
stereos, calculators and so on quantities (batch production)
means that vast quantities of for local or regional markets.



moulded casings. An important

area of exploration for SPD,
therefore, is to consider alterna-
tive approaches, that do not
utilise high quantity techniques
and which can be readily and
economically manufactured at
the local level.
The ‘Plaine Telephone’, (Figures
8–9), is made from a piece of
plywood. All cuts and drilled
holes are at right-angles for ease
of manufacture with basic equip-
ment. Keys are simple cylindrical
pegs, the ‘handset’ utilises a
Figure 8: Plaine Telephone – detail of keys
re-used bottle cap and some wire
and is set on location pads
fashioned from a rubber inner-
tube, an ‘off the shelf’ toggle
switch replaces the switch that is
normally activated when the
handset is replaced, and the
circuitry is simply screwed to the
underside of the board. The
intent here was to create a
usable telephone by employing
the simplest of ‘local’ techniques
– it represents an exercise in
looking for alternatives to prece-
dents, rather than any suggestion
of a definitive ‘local’ design.
Figure 9: Plaine Telephone – simple construction for local production

Integration of scales –
The design of such products is, appropriate, desirable or
mass-produced plus locally
of course, influenced and economically viable at the local
constrained by the economic, level. The ‘local approach’
made components
environmental and social consid- requires the development and As discussed, sustainability is
erations of this type of produc- evolution of alternative tech- strongly linked to the idea of the
tion. niques which employ skills and ‘locale’. An important but seem-
materials in new ways and in ingly little explored aspect of
Currently, capital and energy
unconventional applications. For SPD is, therefore, a reassessment
intensive techniques are widely
example, almost all the design of our scales of production so
used to produce intricately
precedents for many electrical that products can be made,
moulded components and
and electronic products rely on repaired and re-used within a
casings, often with integral
high quantity techniques such as local or regional ‘industrial ecol-
fittings. However, these high
injection moulding. Most histori- ogy’ of cyclic resource use. Such
quantity processes, used for
cal and contemporary telephone a shift would mean that where
producing products for interna-
designs, for instance, feature appropriate, products and parts
tional distribution, are not


would be made using locally
available resources. However,
there would remain many
components that would be more
appropriately manufactured in
high quantities – light sockets,
switches, light bulbs and elec-
tronic parts would be difficult to
manufacture at the local level
and it would be inappropriate to
do so. It is often important, for
instance, to retain standardisa-
tion of these types of compo-
nents for safety reasons and to
ensure compatibility. Hence, SPD
must combine and integrate
scales – using locally produced
parts made from local materials
in combination with mass-
produced parts where appropri-
ate and necessary. If the mass-
produced parts are minimised
and non-specific to a particular
product design, then they can
be recovered and more easily
re-used in other applications.
A standard, mass-produced lamp
socket can be used in a variety
of lighting designs,
similarly a length of threaded
rod or electrical cable has many
possible design applications. On
the other hand, a specialised
moulding produced for one
particular product application
might be difficult to re-use.
The Lumière floor-lamp (Figures
10–11) illustrates this integration
of scales. It utilises a number of
‘off the shelf’, mass-produced
components (lamp socket, bulb,
cable, floor switch, threaded rod
and fasteners), together with
locally produced and found
components (reused hardwood

Figure 10: (top) Lumière Floor Lamp – off-the-shelf components and a pebble
Figure 11 Lumière Floor Lamp – detail of construction



components for the cross-arms of this approach is that the

and base, a locally-made sheet of simplicity and evidently basic
paper as the shade and a pebble means of construction allows a
for the base weight). Packaging certain empathy with the object
and shipping of components is that is based on an understanding
reduced to a minimum. of what the object is made from
Fabrication of a number of parts and how it is constructed. Many
and assembly is done locally and contemporary products lack this Figure 12: Remora Box
the basic design can be modified sense of ‘connection’ because – legged, leaning chest
and adapted to utilise locally they are made using processes,
available resources and to suit materials and fastenings that are
local requirements. In addition, foreign to the user or owner.
the design is such that its This lack of understanding of
construction is explicit and easily one’s material environment not
comprehended – this facilitates only hinders product repair and
repair and disassembly for maintenance, it also creates a
replacement or recovery of parts. certain distance or lack of associ-
Reuse is encouraged by the fact ation with the objects that we
that all mass-produced compo- use. Without a greater sense of
nents are standard, ‘off the shelf’ rapport with our material
parts which can be incorporated surroundings we tend to value
into a wide variety of designs. products only for their functional
convenience but not as material
things. Consequently, when
Elegance and empathy products fail to perform their
through design intended task they are often
When developing products discarded and replaced rather
within the limitations imposed than maintained, repaired or
by the ‘locale’, then the upgraded. Figure 13: Remora Box – corner detail
processes, the techniques and The examples presented here
human skills must be used imagi- represent an approach whereby
natively to convert often unin- the environmental and social
spiring or ‘non-ideal’ materials issues inherent to the notion of
into elegant forms which sustainability can be addressed by
contribute in a positive way to and made relevant to the disci-
our material culture. pline of product design. This
The ‘Remora Box’, (Figures 12–13) exploration has been conducted
is a legged, leaning chest through direct engagement in the
constructed from recovered creative activity of designing
planks with screw fastenings and itself rather than through investi-
threaded-rod legs. Here the gation of technical addenda
attempt was made, through which can inform, but are not
‘design’, to bring an element of central to, the design process. It
style and finesse to an otherwise suggests that a reassessment of
prosaic item constructed in an our approaches to product manu-
expeditious and rudimentary facturing is both necessary and
fashion from commonplace feasible. Design aimed at local
materials. An additional feature scale manufacturing has the



potential to provide fulfilling redefined for local and regional

employment while enhancing conditions, how a diverse and References
the possibilities for product thoughtful variety of routes
repair, maintenance and the could bring a richness and depth Cross, N., ‘The Refereed
cyclic use of materials. But it is to the creation of our material Journal’, in proceedings of
the designer who must put the culture so that it is not only Designing Design Research 2,
flesh on the bones of this poten- environmentally and socially (26 February 1998), at:
tial. It is through design that we responsible but also aesthetically
can demonstrate how ‘things’ expressive of the ethical core at
could be, how products can be the heart of sustainability. •
Evans, B., ‘Improvisation in Jazz’,
liner notes from the ‘Kind of
Blue’ album by Miles Davis,
(New York: Columbia Records,
[1959] 1997).

Sustainable product design (SPD) in action Hawken, P., ‘The Ecology of

Commerce: A Declaration of
Economics: Simplicity of design, use of inexpensive, locally available
Sustainability’, (New York:
materials, ease of production, incorporation of 'off the shelf' parts,
HarperCollins, 1993), p. 144.
provision of local employment opportunities, low capital production
equipment. Manu, A., ‘The Humane Village
Explained’, The Humane Village
Environment: Use of natural materials which can be maintained and Journal, Vol.1, Issue 1, (1994)
repaired, use of water-based paints and re-used parts, use of fasteners p.11.
that allow disassembly and re-assembly. Finishes and other aesthetic
Margetts, M., ‘International
considerations contribute to product longevity. Low energy production
Crafts’, (London: Thames &
Hudson, 1991), p.13.
Ethics: Responsible use of human and material resources. Designs
Nozick, M., ‘No Place Like Home:
incorporate considerations significant to both environmental steward-
Building Sustainable
ship and social equity. These sustainable principles are expressed in
Communities’, (Ottawa: Canadian
the aesthetic resolution of the products - the designs begin to ‘add
Council on Social Development,
value’ to the product beyond merely utilitarian. This encourages care
1992), pp. 14–15.
and maintenance of our material environment and contributes to
product longevity. In turn, this starts to address the problems of Roseland, M., ‘Towards
excessive consumption with all its 'unethical' implications of Sustainable Communities: A
selfishness, greed, vanity, immoderate attitudes, etc. Resource Book for Municipal
and Local Governments’,
Social: Provision of local employment through local production, repair (Ottawa: National Round Table
and maintenance. The evolution of local designs, expressing a local on the Environment and the
aesthetic helps create a sense of cultural identity. Local scale produc- Economy, 1992), pp.7–9.
tion fits well into scenarios of more sustainable ways of living that have
Van Der Ryn, S., and S. Cowan,
been developed by urban planners. These scenarios emphasise the
‘Ecological Design’, (Washington
importance of 'community' and include mixed use developments
D.C.: Island Press, 1996), pp.
incorporating reidence, production, retail, recreation, etc.
57–81 and pp.147–159.



The ‘eco-kitchen’ project –

using eco-design to innovate
Chris Sherwin, Dr Tracy Bhamra and Professor Stephen Evansn
Researcher, Research Officer and Lifecycle Engineer,
Cranfield University, UK

Chris Sherwin is a researcher in The agenda is now being set for pressures from legislation,
eco-design at the CIM Institute, eco-innovations in sustainable consumers and competitors.
Cranfield University. He is currently products, services and lifestyles. The best and most advanced
undertaking his PhD looking into This requires a new and more companies have recognised that
how companies and designers radical approach to eco-design, it is necessary to improve both
can use eco-design to innovate. A beyond the small step improvements existing products but also to
particular interest is how to integrate that are the focus of many present re-think future products and
behavioural and lifestyle factors into developments. This article focuses business strategies. Fussler has
eco-design practices and processes, on the ‘eco-kitchen’ project, a discussed the need for eco-inno-
and in shifting the focus from supply to collaboration between Electrolux vations noting that ‘environment’
demand side issues. He has an MA in Industrial Design and Cranfield is a useful way to be proactive
Furniture Design & Technology, which University, which aimed to develop and create new markets for more
focused on design for sustainability. new ideas and concepts for future sustainable products and services
Dr Tracy Bhamra has been a products or services. A key inten- and that move society towards
researcher in the area of tion was to highlight how eco- sustainability (Fussler, 1996).
Environmentally Conscious Design design can be used to innovate and Also within the bigger picture of
and Concurrent Product Development and that such new developments sustainable development, Agenda
for six years. Firstly at the Manchester must engage new forms of 21 and the Rio Declaration have
Metropolitan University where environmentally sensitive highlighted the need for new
she completed her PhD in Design behaviour as well as cleaner systems of production and
for Disassembly and now at technologies. Using examples from consumption (UNEP, 1992).
Cranfield University where the project to illustrate, the paper
In its recent publication ‘Design
she is a Research Officer. demonstrates one future direction
for Environmental Sustainability,
for using environment as innovation
Professor Stephen Evans has spent the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)
over 12 years working in the defence/ in the UK suggests that ‘accessing
aerospace industry. His research the societal’ brief is the next
interests are in the implementation of Introduction great challenge for environmen-
improved product development tally conscious design (RSA,
any stakeholders are now
processes and in bringing environ-
mental concerns into the product M recognising the need for
innovation that goes beyond
1997). It is also suggested that the
scale of environmental improve-
development process. Dr Evans is a ment necessary is somewhere
graduate of the University of Bath merely incremental improve-
between Factor 4, 10 or even 20.
and has a doctorate in Manufacturing ments to existing products or
In short, the re-design of what
Systems Engineering. He is a situations. It is being acknowl-
exists is, in many cases, unlikely
Chartered Engineer and a Member of edged that companies need to
to deliver such improvements, so
the Institute of Electrical Engineers. innovate in order to keep up
eco-innovations are needed in
with increasing environmental
both technologies and lifestyles –



In short, the
re-design of
what exists
is, in many
cases, unlikely
to deliver such
so eco- Figure 1: 'Smart sink' – controls, calibrates and purifies water and gives feedback
on rates and levels of consumption.

innovations supply and demand side (Beard brief and included at concept

are needed and Hartmann, 1997). The above

drivers highlight the need for
generation, to give a greater
level of innovation.

in both innovation and suggest that there

is a new and innovative role for
design emerging. This duality
technologies could see design representing An initial LCA of the kitchen
opportunities to communicate indicated that the greatest impact
and lifestyles ‘visions’ of more sustainable of the kitchen (over 80%) took
lifestyles, which engage place during its use. In the use
consumers and users (Charter phase, consumer behaviour
and Chick, 1997). brings into play a whole series
of issues dealing with lifestyles
and behaviour which means that
‘Eco-kitchen’ project design developments will have
The ‘eco-kitchen’ project is a to engage not only technological
collaboration between Electrolux and material, but also cultural
Industrial Design Department issues. The ‘eco-kitchen’ project
and Cranfield University with was viewed holistically as a
the intention of developing domestic ‘scenario or need’
innovative new products and (rather than a series of products)
solutions that acknowledge the which means that the boundaries
need to move from ‘refine and became issues surrounding ‘food
repair’, towards ‘redesign and culture’. This approach allowed
rethink’ (see JSPD 1, April 1997). design developments to look
One of the key interests for both beyond specific artefacts, to
parties was for environmental product systems, relationships
considerations to be integrated or to services. It was also recog-
into the design process at the nised that these ‘domestic needs’
earliest stage, written into the are not simply the physical or



Environmental impact of household activities (Denmark) The ‘eco-

Activities Resources (%) Discharges (%)
Eating 38 36

Clothes & Laundry 7 8 project is a

Personal hygiene/health 10 4
Leisure (at home) 15 12

Cleaning 2 1 with the

Heating 14 12
intention of
Transport (car) 14 27
innovative new
products and
biological needs of nutrition or Even in terms of environmental
sustenance, but are culturally impact, the kitchen needs special solutions that
defined – the need for dining as attention. A study of the envi-
social status or for eating as a ronmental impact of domestic acknowledge
courtship ritual (Tansey, 1995). needs in Denmark (Figure 1)
This meant that cultural factors
had to be integrated and consid-
shows that food and eating
represents the greatest household
the need to
ered in design developments.
The kitchen was also recognised
impact in terms of both inputs
and outputs (WRF, 1996).
move from
as a domestic setting and social
centre of great significance. As ‘refine and
Pearson notes:
Approach – a ‘partnership
‘The kitchen is the heart of the house,
of awareness’ repair’, towards
the centre of consumption, the hub of Some industrial designers are
daily life. It is the place where family now recognising that they oper- ‘redesign
and friends gather to eat, drink, and ate in a gap between production
chat, share their joys, or solve their and consumption, as the link and rethink’.
problems... What we need now is a between ‘products and people’
new type of kitchen, a new focus and that they can have influence
for our daily life that is not intended over how people treat objects
for surface show but stands for the and artefacts, and promote less
sounder principles of personal health materialistic lifestyles (Dewberry
and universal ecology. A kitchen and Goggin, 1996). In view of this
where we can enjoy the pleasures potential, the design project had
of healthy food without it costing, both a supply and demand side
literally, the earth.’ orientation with the design team
(Pearson 1989) stating that the aim should be to
design products for responsible



Figure 2: 'Chest freezer'

– an efficient cold storage
unit with an integrated
household recycling facility

…industrial manufacturers to produce, that

encourage and enhance behav-
· work with current consumer
clusters and market segments
ioural change by ethical and
designers are aware consumers. This was
· use real (rather than ideal)
defined as a ‘partnership of
recognising awareness.’
· support and encourage
(not force) consumers
· near future support systems –
that they Project brief and design such as internet shopping,
household waste collection,
operate in this criteria
Although this was viewed as a
gap between concept and visionary project,
the designers were keen to use Results
production and real constraints and approach
the task as a ‘live’ project.
Seven new product concepts
were the outcomes. Some of the
consumption, Electrolux chose to follow their
usual design process, by defining
proposals were outside of tradi-
tional product categories or
market constraints and user
as the link group profile. The two key
were a new generation of
kitchen products. In short, they
groups being: moved beyond eco-design. Some
between · innovative – value quality, of these are illustrated below:
novelty and speed and · The ‘Smart Sink’ is the centre
‘products convenience; of household water manage-
· responsible – a strong sense ment. A membrane sink
and people’. of ethics, family-orientated, expands to minimise water use
buy quality and durability. and a smart tap switches from
jet to spray to mist to suit
The brief also defined five key
customer needs. A consump-
criteria for consideration in
tion meter and a water-level
their design developments,
indicator in the main basin
which were:
gives feedback on rates and
· balance desire and level of water usage.
environment Household grey water is



Figure 3: 'Light-plant' – a functional

reminder of resource use

managed visibly by an osmosis of use. Along with this it also refillable and reusable contain-
purifier and a cyclone filter holds an inventory of food ers that have a jewellery like,
located in the pedestal, and stock, communicating quanti- cherishable quality.
linked to the household grey- ties, freshness and use-by dates. · The ‘Light-plants’ are
water storage. It is a link to the supermarket communicator’s of environ-
· The ‘Data-wall’ is the brain of for home-shopping and deliv- mental principles, a functional
the kitchen. It is an ‘informa- ery service and contains the reminder of resource use. Left
tion product’ that helps ‘menu-master’ – advice on on a windowsill they collect
manage and communicate recipes, cooking techniques and store solar energy, and
domestic resource use. It is and health and dietary issues. when placed on the table they
connected to most kitchen Behind this information inter- emit stored energy as light.
products for feedback on levels face is the kitchen storage – This approach – defined as



eco-erotica – represents the

‘greening of desire’ in which
designers can surely have a
central role.
· The strength of some products
is their simplicity and elegance.
As cold air falls, it is not
efficient to have a front door
access on freezers because cold
air ‘falls out’. The 'chest
freezer' works on the principle
that it is more efficient to have
access to cold storage from
above. The body is ceramic to
increase thermal mass and has
been raised so the top is a
work-surface. In doing this, the
space underneath is utilised as
a domestic recycling centre.

A key strength of the project is
that it has tangible and visible
products as outcomes, which
helps make sustainability more
understandable. But the process
itself is illustrative of the issues
in implementing sustainable
product design, for a number of
· The project represents an
attempt at not just designing
new business opportunities but
Figure 4: 'Data Wall' – in ‘accessing the societal brief’.
an information product that It looks at sustainability in
acts as the kitchen 'brain' terms of the domestic situation,
shifting the focus from strictly
supply-side towards demand-
side, therefore offering visions
of a more sustainable lifestyle.
· The approach was holistic,
in that it looked at a domestic
scenario or need – the kitchen
– rather than using existing
products as starting points.
Some of the products also look
beyond the boundaries of the



kitchen, ie. to provide resource · Because the key impacts of

management for the whole the kitchen are in the use
domestic setting. For instance phase of consumer behaviour
the ‘Smart Sink’ illustrated how the project included a series
all household water could be of cultural and lifestyle
purified including grey water considerations. This illustrates
storage that also collects rain- the type of issues eco-desgn
water. Information also flows must tackle if it is to grow
through the kitchen, from and mature as a working
product to product and is concept. •
managed and communicated by
a central kitchen ‘brain’ –
the ‘Data-wall.’

Beard, C. and Hartmann, R. (1997). RSA (1997). Design for
‘Sustainable Design: rethinking Environmental Sustainability: The
future business products’. The Research Agenda for Sustainable
Journal of Sustainable Product Product Design. T. F. Committee.
Design 1(3): 18-27. RSA.

Charter, M. and Chick, A. (1997). Tansey, G. (1995). Food, Culture and

‘Editorial Notes’. Journal of Human Needs: Part 1; Chapter 4.
Sustainable Product Design 1(3): The Food System: A Guide. London,
5-6. Earthscan Publications Ltd.: 47 – 84.

Dewberry, E. and Goggin, P. (1996). UNEP (1992). Agenda 21. The Earth
‘Spaceship Ecodesign’. Summit. London, United Nations
Co-design 05 06 (01 02 03): 12-17. Environment Programme. Section 1:
Fussler, C. and James, P. (1996).
Driving Eco Innovations: A break- UNEP (1992). The Rio Declaration on
through discipline for Innovation Environment and Development. The
and Sustainability. London, Pitman Earth Summit. London, United
Publishing. Nations Environment Programme:
Pearson, D. (1989). The Natural
House Book: Creating a healthy, World Resource Foundation (WRF)
harmonious and ecologically sound (1996). ‘Environmental Impact in the
home. London, Gaia Books Ltd. Home’. Warmer Bulletin August
(50): 22.



Sustainable design
website: linking people,
ideas and tools
Martin Chartern
Joint Coordinator, The Centre for Sustainable Design, UK

The Journal of Sustainable Product O2 website on the latest eco-design

Design has developed a partnership materials.
he O2 website for
with the O2 Global Network to further
disseminate information and ideas on
T sustainable design supports
information and knowledge
The O2 website is
eco-design and sustainable product a collaborative project between
exchange among designers and O2 Nederlands.
design. O2 Global Network is an
entrepreneurs engaged in the
international network of ecological development of environmen- With questions and feedback
designers. The O2 Global Network is tally sustainable products and about this site: Go to an index
organised into national O2 groups services. Its aim is to fill a gap page and click on the FEED-
which work together to provide various in the information needs of BACK button. Or contact the
services such as: O2 Broadcasts, which designers and companies. webmasters at the Netherlands
report live from O2 events using email Design Institute: Conny Bakker
People ( or
and the Worldwide Web (WWW); O2
Text meetings, a meeting place on the · Interesting ‘green minds’ Mariette Overschie
worldwide (
Web; the O2 WWW pages, which
provides an overview of activities; O2 · The eco-design experts
Gallery, an exhibition of eco-products guide for the Netherlands.
O2 France: new
on the Web; and, an O2 mailing list.
Ideas developments
For further information on the above · Web report of the Factor 4 · Launch of new library services
activities and the O2 Global Network conference, February 1998, covering eco-design issues:
contact: O2 Global Network Amsterdam – durability
Tourslaan 39 · Columns by the Foundation – lightweighting
5627 KW Eindhoven for Smart Architecture – renewability
The Netherlands · The o2 Challenge, workshop – recyclability
tel/fax: +31 40 2428 483 on Sustainable Business – energy efficiency
O2 Global Network new homepage: Concepts, November 5, 6, 7
· Recently designed a lamp for
1998, Rotterdam, the Habitat using eco-design
e-mail: principles
mailinglist: Tools · Organising recycling
uk/lists.o2global.db · The latest and most exhibition for the city of
interesting books, sites and Cliche – a suburb of Paris
‘O2 News’ will update readers of
reports on eco-design · Completed a study on
the Journal on the latest eco-design
· The calendar covers greenhouse gas emissions
issues from around the world and
eco-design events, tradefairs covering thirty multinationals
on O2’s national activities.
and contests worldwide for ‘Found for Nature and the
· Case studies and updates Environment’ (France).



efficiency of products and

Sustainable Business Concepts (SBC) product systems, and new
Definition product service combinations,
SBC are product-related business solutions integrating ecological, eco-design implementation
economic and social goals. 'Sustainable', because SBC strive for methods and future-oriented
higher ambition levels than current practice, increasing eco-efficiency environmental, technological
with a ‘factor 4’ or more. 'Business', as SBC comprise economically and social foresight activities.
realistic innovations of both product-, service- and technology- For more information: Kathalys, PO
combinations, as well as organisational change. 'Concepts' as SBC will
Box 5073, 2600 GB Delft, telephone +31
form conceptualisations of ideas and visions rather than detailed blue-
(0)15 260 87 45.
prints of sustainable business solutions. SBC will arise from changing
contexts in the business environment. The identification and design of
SBC is envisioned to inspire, cathalyse and mobilise businesses, (im)Material: explorations
government and entrepreneurs to take up the sustainability challenge. toward sustainability, 2–3
Source: O2 Magazine year 6 issue 2 (August 1998) October 1998
The Design Academy, in collabo-
ration with O2 Netherlands and
Kathalys open
Sustainable Business Concepts the Eindhoven Technical Uni-
(SBC) Minister Wijers of the versity’s Centre for Sustainable
Netherlands Ministry of Technology Development, offers
Economic Affairs opened the designers an opportunity to add
· SBC is about combining
Center for Sustainable Product their voices to the sustainability
economy with ecology
Innovation, Kathalys, on 15 June agenda, through the
· SBC is about major
1998. Kathalys is a partnership ‘(im)Material’ symposium in De
innovations of new activities,
between TNO Institute of Witte Dame, Eindhoven’s new
instead of minor improve-
Industrial Technology and the centre for art, design and infor-
ments of existing activities
· SBC require strategic Faculty of Industrial Design of mation technology.
decisions within companies Delft University of Technology.
Presentations are clustered
· SBC is about fulfilling the Its mission is to initiate and
around four seminars dealing
essential needs of introduce R&D projects which
with Life Cycle Assessment
consumers and knowing could lead to innovations
(‘Assessing Life Cycles’), the
future markets amongst manufacturers of
design of systems (‘The Dividing
· SBC focuses on the total industrial products. To this end
Line’), trend manipulation
range of innovation/organisa- two services are offered: concept
(‘Trend-benders’) and the roles
tion of products, services, and project development and
technologies and systems of information and education
eco-design implementation. The
· SBC will not only be (‘Only Human’). The
first relates to the accomplish-
developed by bigger compa- ‘(im)Material’ symposium is
ment of sustainable product
nies: smaller companies with configured as a preliminary event
innovation projects; the second
their innovative and dynamic for O2’s ‘Sustainable Business
relates to the integration of envi-
character will be a major Concepts’ workshop in
ronmental aspects in industrial
source of new SBC as well November. •
product innovation processes.
· Designers can play a crucial
Kathalys has in-house expertise For more information: ‘(im)Material’
role creating new solutions
in Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) Symposium, The DEsign Academy,
which integrate consumer
and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) Emmasingel 14, PO Box 2125, 5600 CC
needs with business
methods, energy efficiency of Eindhoven. Telephone +31 40 239 39 39.
products and product systems, Fax +31 40 239 39 40.
Source: O2 Magazine year 6
optimisation of the eco-
issue 2 (August 1998)




Green marketing: hen I reviewed the first edition of this book in 1994 I compared
opportunity for innovation
Jacquelyn A. Ottman
W it to one of the self-help books that are so popular in America.
It was snappy, informative, clearly focused and tends to make you
Lincolnwood (Chicago), USA, enthusiastic about wanting to get out there and do things differently
NTC Business Books and better. However, it also shared the typical weaknesses of such
ISBN 0-8442-3239-4 books of tending to reduce the greening challenge into relatively
270 pages simple checklists of things you can do to create a greener company
Price: US $ 24.95 around yourself.
The second edition is a larger, glossier and more substantial affair, and
it has begun to get to grips with some of the difficulties involved in
the greening of companies rather than just focusing on the necessities
and the opportunities. So new chapters covering ‘The Secret to
Avoiding Backlash’ and how to ‘Work from the Inside Out’ deal with
some of the implementational issues that those who rushed off enthu-
siastically clutching the first edition may have encountered. There are
other changes too. The book’s emphasis has changed to reflect the
evolution of the green agenda. It deals with the change in environ-
mental concern to become less explicitly ‘top of mind’ among many
consumers and managers, instead becoming more of a central core
value influencing consumption and marketing decisions. The chapter
on dealing with different stakeholders is now entitled ‘Teaming Up
for Success’ reflecting the trend towards collaborative solutions for
environmental problems. It is a pity that these developments in the
book have not really been matched by a more sophisticated approach
to the characterisation of green consumers. The book has a very useful
discussion of green consumer psychology, but it still classifies
consumers according to the Roper Organisation’s ‘True Blues’ to ‘Basic
Browns’ framework which is very simplistic and perhaps too American
to be very useful elsewhere.
The very American focus of this book, and the way that this limits its
usefulness outside of America, is the major weakness in an otherwise
very valuable contribution. This is reflected in the case study choice
and the handling of many specific issues. The vignette case studies are
interesting and are helpful in keeping the discussion lively and closely
tied to the realities of business. The companies used however are all
American (or in a couple of cases represent European companies’
experience in America) and are often relatively obscure, which will
limit the book’s appeal outside of the US. The issue of accuracy and
honesty in environmental marketing claims is a very important issue,
but the book deals with it almost entirely within the framework of
adhering to Federal Trade Commission Guidelines. At a more
fundamental level, America, as the most extreme example of a
consumer-orientated society, is the place in which the difficulties of
dealing with the environment within the existing marketing paradigm



become most apparent. Although the book calls for a new marketing
paradigm, most of what it proposes looks very like the old one, in
which it is assumed that consumer sovereignty operating within free
markets will drive companies to improve their products in search of
opportunity and profit. The marketing focus of the book is also a very
narrow one, dominated by issues relating to end consumers, product
development and product-based communication. To make a profound
difference to the greening of industry, a broader focus and a more
radical approach to the greening of marketing will be needed.
This book is very useful in providing a ‘pep talk’ for managers who
may need to be convinced about the need to make their company and
their marketing more environmentally orientated. It is lively, interest-
ing, full of relevant practical examples, and very non-threatening. In
the wake of the recent experience of many companies of hitting ‘The
Green Wall’ (to use Arthur D. Little’s terminology) in trying to imple-
ment corporate environmental programmes, its reassuring tone
perhaps makes it a very timely contribution. Since the UK tends to
often follow US management trends, the very American focus of the
book will hopefully not grate too much on British readers.
Ken Peattie, Senior Lecturer in Strategic Management, Cardiff Business School UK

espite the consistent rumblings inside firms that environmental

Cannibals with forks
the triple bottom line D management is not being implemented fast enough, one should
remember the spectacular speed with which environmental issues have
of 21st century business
John Elkington been taken up by industry in virtually all of the developed world.
Capstone Publ. Within only five years, virtually all firms that claim to be amongst the
UK, 1997 ‘great and the good’, have begun to publish an account of their envi-
ronmental effects – although environmental accounting is (still) in its
ISBN 1-900961-27-X
infancy. A new challenge for firms is that they are now increasingly
403 pp; £18.99
being asked about their sustainability impacts as well.
But against all this flurry of activity, the question remains, is it enough?
Enough in terms of the firms’ ability to maintain (or gain) competitive-
ness, enough to satisfy public concern about the organisation’s impact
on ecology and society, enough to reduce the environmental impacts
to be within acceptable levels. Elkington argues probably not, but that
businesses are to be judged against each of these three criteria – his
‘Triple Bottom Line’.
In fact, Elkington argues, in a book that remains on the passionate side
of a very cogently argued line, that firms will have little choice but to
revolutionise traditional business practice, and that the smart firms
have begun to do so already. In this, the book’s tenor is not new. For
many years, authors have, with varying degrees of conviction and



success, argued that firms all over the world are taking up environ-
mental issues, and that those who don’t soon will fall behind. The
hard evidence for this is still not as forthcoming as proponents of
this view (the reviewer included) would like to have it.
However, what is remarkable about this book is its unashamedly
environmental stance, arguing that, environmentally and socially,
we have little choice but to see firms adopting a much more radical
perspective than environmental management has so far proposed.
The book cogently argues that the core of this revolution is nothing
less than a redirection of fundamental business philosophy: a depar-
ture from the monotheistic profit-motive as the one and only goal for
firms and to move towards the inclusion of social, ethical, environ-
mental and economic rationale as the key determinant of business
What will ease this necessary transition are what Elkington calls
seven Revolutions. Using his highly visual, imaginative and visionary
language with lateral illustrations and a wealth of business experience,
he argues that seven long-term trends will start to affect firms. They
· Markets: the increasing number and immediacy of customers has
reduced the viability of compliance to external or market standards
as success determinants. Instead, competitors and market drivers
determine product design and quality. It remains to be seen how
this trend is to affect basic research or fundamental product design
as more and more market strategies are aimed at outmanoeuvring
competitors. A glimpse of this future may be seen in the creativity
(or lack thereof) of recent car design.
· Values: Elkington predicts a continued rise of ethical values as
factors in corporate strategy, covering recruitment, consumer
choice, geographical dispersal of production and ethical staff
policies. This adds a social dimension into corporate policy and
strategy that will make many managers uncomfortable as it means
the very inclusion of many factors that so far were seen as being
‘not the business of business’. Nike and child labour or Shell’s
Nigeria come to mind.
· Transparency: firms have become much more transparent over
recent years. Revolutions in IT and globalisation of communications
mean that geographically dispersed ‘skeletons in the cupboard’ can
now be disclosed and transmitted globally without firms having a
realistic chance to prevent it effectively. In fact, the amount and the
level of detail of disclosed information – voluntary or not – has
dramatically increased. This calls for far more consistency and far
fewer skeletons. In fact, as Elkington argues, environmental



management systems have not been able to keep up with the increased
demand for environmental reporting. However, it should also be noted
that these environmental reports are poor tools for dialogue and are read
by very few (so far).
· Life-Cycle Technology: rightly or wrongly, firms are increasingly held
accountable for the environmental impact of their products and its ingre-
dients across the whole life-cycle. For highly vertically integrated firms,
this makes sense as they control much of the value chain. For others, this
means more effective management of the life-cycle up- as well as down-
stream. Witness the growing use of supplier surveys and the complex
debate on Extended Producer Responsibility and Product Stewardship.
· Partnerships: the development of collaborative and dialogue-inducing
relationships between pressure groups and producers, or between govern-
mental agencies and corporations, means, again, an opening of the firm
towards outside groups as well as a re-definition of firms’ perceptions of
these groups. This ‘dabbling with the enemy’ means also that pressure
groups can behave schizophrenically or at least inconsistently.
· Time: Elkington outlines the contemporary dichotomy between faster and
faster response times required and the requirements on firms to develop
the very long-term perspectives that sustainable development demands
which is precluded by short-termism.
· Corporate Governance: Elkington argues that, far from being outdated,
the debate about the role of corporations in (post-) modern societies is
alive and demanding. The Corporate Social Responsibility debate has
resurfaced and questions the purpose, meaning and contribution of
organisations. If organisations are assumed to have a purpose beyond
making money through material transformations, using part of this to pay
taxes and to recompense a shrinking workforce, then firms have, at least
to some extent, justify their existence and their role in the societies they
operate in. This may turn out to become the most basic and most
fundamental revolution.

In laying out this premise for change, Elkington argues for radical alter-
ations not only in the way business goes along its unsteady and complex
path, but in our perceptions of what firms are there for. By expressly
addressing the capitalist modes of production and its unacceptable environ-
mental impacts, Elkington, laudably, evaluates the very system of produc-
tion that – since the spectacular demise of the former Soviet – is seen as
‘the best possible’, rather than as ‘the one that has survived but which is in
dire need of radical change’. It is his background as a Consultant that makes
the power of his argument and the radical approach taken so refreshingly
positive, optimistic and, yes, readable and applicable.
Dr. Walter Wehrmeyer is the BG Surrey Scholar on Contaminated Land at the Centre for
Environmental Strategy of the University of Surrey, UK



26–27 October 1998 4–6 November 1998 16–18 November 1998

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25–26 November 1998 2–5 February 1999 15–17 April 1999

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The Journal of
Sustainable Product Design

5 Editorial
Martin Charter, Joint Editor, The Journal of Sustainable Product Design

7 Eco-innovations – a novel phenomenon?
Glenn Johansson and Thomas Magnusson, PhD students, International Graduate
School of Management and Industrial Engineering, Linköping University, Sweden

19 Eco-effective product design: the contribution of environmental

management in designing sustainable products
Dr Michael Frei, Environmental Officer, ABB Power Generation Ltd, Switzerland

30 Active disassembly
Joseph Chiodo, Research Scientist, Cleaner Electronics Research, Brunel University,
UK; Professor Eric Billett, Chair in Design, Brunel University, UK; and Dr David
Harrison, Lecturer in the Department of Design, Brunel University, UK

41 Sustainable furniture

54 Peter James, Director, Sustainable Business Centre, UK
Martin Charter, Joint Coordinator, The Centre for Sustainable Design, UK

42 Experiments in sustainable product design
Stuart Walker, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Design,
The University of Calgary, Canada

57 The ‘eco-kitchen’ project – using eco-design to innovate
Chris Sherwin, Dr Tracy Bhamra and Professor Stephen Evans,
Cranfield University, UK

O2 news
60 Sustainable design website: linking people, ideas and tools
The Centre for Sustainable Design Martin Charter, Joint Coordinator, The Centre for Sustainable Design, UK

an initiative of 61 Reviews
The Surrey Institute
of Art & Design 63 Diary of events