Co2ncept: Carbon Footprinting for Design Concepts

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Loughborough Design School

Abstract

This research project aims to investigate the use of an abridged carbon footprinting methodology to allow designers to calculate the carbon footprint of 'product' design concepts. These concepts are not yet sufficiently developed to be assessed via traditional carbon footprinting methods. The developed resource will be aimed at designers involved in NPD . Key activities will include:- Investigation and identification of CO2 and CO2e conversion factors relevant to designers.- Investigation of methods through which industrial designers can calculate the carbon footprint of 'product' concepts.- Investigation of the feasibility of the selected methodology through action research with practising designers within the collaborating companies.Currently carbon footprinting methodologies rely on the existence of a tangible product within a defined supply chain. Co2ncept will make it possible for carbon footprinting to be carried out before a product is made. This will allow: - comparisons to be made between concepts,- impacts to be identified, and improvement options considered, at a stage where they can be addressed quickly and at considerably lower financial cost, and will - enable designers to be more aware of the consequences of their design decisions.This tool will be the first of its kind and has the potential to answer a need that has not yet been catered for by existing carbon footprinting methods. 'Co2ncept' will be the first tool to allow designers to calculate an abridged carbon footprint for 'product' concepts. This will be done through the use of standard CO2 and CO2e conversion factors. Providing this function will allow designers to make more considered decisions at the early stages of the product development process with regards to concept selection, at a time where changes are neither costly or time consuming.Current ecodesign theory supports the belief that designers have a valuable role to play in ecodesign because of their positioning at the early stages of the product development process (PDP), where the design brief is most flexible and the most critical decisions are made. Product development timescales are getting shorter and shorter, and the burden and requirement for evidence early on in the development process in order to support key development decisions is increasing. In addition to this, it is recognised that providing industrial designers with the ability to be able to implement ecodesign at the operational stage will vastly improve the likelihood of ecodesign products making it onto the market. The project proposed here aims to support this theory. There are a number of resources currently available to designers which allow the quick calculation of environmental impacts, the commercial success of these resources show that there is a need for tools that allow the quick assessment of the environmental consequences of 'products' in the early stages. The limitations of LCA of any kind is that it requires a product to have been developed before it can be assessed. Carbon is increasingly becoming a hot topic within government and business because it allows a tangible comparison between things which couldn't previously be compared. This research project will capitalise on this but investigate the use of carbon footprinting methodologies created specifically to calculate the carbon footprint of 'product' concepts rather than fully developed products.

Planned Impact

Who will Benefit from this Research? Collaborating companies will benefit immediately through the investigation into the use of an abridged carbon footprinting methodology to allow designers to calculate the carbon footprint of design concepts. By collaborating with these companies it will allow them to calculate the carbon footprint of concepts and enable them to make decisions that have significant potential to reduce the carbon footprint of products before they go into production. Members of the Sustainable Design Network (SDN, there are currently over 200) will have access to the project outcomes via a workshop at the end of the project. UK industry will have free access to the project outcomes via an online resource and dissemination via the SDN and through industry journals will ensure all UK Plc will have the opportunity to benefit from this research and increase global competitiveness of the UK in sustainable design.. The online resource will benefit from being integrated with 'informationinspiration', an online resource which already attracts a number of followers. A number of professional bodies will also find the research of interest, including the Carbon Trust, DEFRA, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change, all of whom are looking at low carbon industrial strategies. The project outcomes may also be of interest to the British Standards Institute, who have recently published a specification for the assessment of the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of goods and services (PAS2050). How will they Benefit from this Research? Boots and Pi3 will benefit immediately through the project through co-producing and exchanging knowledge. A training workshop and dissemination of the project outcomes will then ensure they are available to a wide audience. Industry will have access to the project outcomes to enable them to make decisions that have significant potential to reduce the carbon footprint of products before they go into production. This will allow impacts to be identified, and improvement options considered at a stage where they can be addressed quickly and at considerably lower financial cost, thus fostering greater economic performance within UK Plc. Currently this capability does not exist as carbon footprinting is carried out retrospectively with no opportunity to change anything. Professional bodies will be able to make use of the project outcomes to guide companies and inform policy. Having access to the project outcomes will provide UK Plc with the opportunity to reduce the cost of environmental design, enhancing quality of life and addressing an important research question of whether the carbon footprint of products can be calculated at concept stage. Carbon footprinting can improve quality of life by reducing Co2 emissions, therefore reducing climate change and reducing resource depletion. It is widely accepted that greenhouse gas emissions are having a negative effect on the environment. Products and services create Co2 and other greenhouse gas emissions. Understanding the causes of these emissions and addressing these impacts early in the design process is crucial in order to reduce the effects of climate change. What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this research? Co-producing and exchanging knowledge with collaborating companies will be done through regular face-to-face meetings and project reports throughout the research project. A number of activities have been planned to ensure the commercial sector, academics, students and policy makers all have the opportunity to benefit from this research. These are: - The development of case studies, - Sustainable Design Network event workshop, - Dissemination in both academic and industry journals, as well as via the University press office, - Presentation at the ICED conference, - Open source dissemination via the 'informationinspiration' website.

Publications

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