Inderscience Publishers

Advantages and challenges in using LCA–based environmental impact assessment for guiding design decisions

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Owing to the increased awareness of environmental issues along with tighter regulatory norms, there is greater emphasis among manufacturers to lower the environmental impacts of their products and solutions. Many organisations are seeking to adapt the life cycle assessment (LCA) method to estimate impact during the design stage and guide the development of sustainable products. In this research, four case studies, involving different types of design scenarios and choices typically faced by designers, were used to study the application of such an approach. The case studies include choice of alternate materials, manufacturing process, design configurations and joining methods. The analysis of these case studies indicated that such an approach can provide valuable insights to designers. However, considerable experience and expertise is required to understand the inaccuracies and limitations introduced by assumptions inherent in the inventory databases as well as by the selected scope of analysis. This paper details the advantages and challenges that designers may encounter in this approach, and suggests directions for further research to enable seamless and effective integration of LCA–based methods in the conventional design process.

Keywords: streamlined LCA, design methodology, LCA integration, life cycle assessment, environmental impact assessment, design decisions, sustainable products, sustainable design, product development, alternative materials, manufacturing processes, design configurations, joining methods, design process

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