The interest in sustainable patterns of production and consumption has
been growing for over a decade, since the Brundtland Commission presented
its report titled "Our Common Future" in 1987. The situation of the environment
today - over six billion inhabitants on earth and a growing industrial
activity world-wide -makes it increasingly evident that our current way
of life is not sustainable.
A major contribution of society’s negative impact on the environment is
related to industrial products and the processes during their life cycle,
from raw materials extraction over manufacturing, transport, use to final
disposal. Therefore, efforts focus on attempts to integrate environmental
aspects into the whole process of product development and design. They
often involve established tools and methods for environmental evaluation,
such as formal Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). These tools and methods are,
however, often relatively complicated and require more time, data and
specific expertise in the field than designers usually possess. Furthermore,
the detailed information required for an LCA are not available in the
early stages of the product development process, where crucial decisions
are made, such as the decision upon materials and manufacturing processes.
It is, therefore, a major challenge to develop tools and methods, which
support the environmentally conscious selection of materials and processes
while requiring only relatively little time and knowledge in the field
of environmental evaluation and only approximate information about the
product and its life cycle.
This dissertation addresses this challenge in presenting a method, which
is tailored to these requirements of designers - the Oil Point Method
(OPM). In providing environmental key information and confining itself
to three essential assessment steps, the method enables rough environmental
evaluations and supports in this way material- and process-related decision-making
in the early stages of design.
In its overall structure, the Oil Point Method is related to Life Cycle
Assessment - except for two main differences: the method considers exclusively
primary energy relationships and it utilises material and process-specific
indicators for the calculations.
The validation of the method is accomplished by means of five case studies,
where results obtained with the OPM are compared to results obtained with
two established methods for environmental evaluation: A formal LCA method
and another indicator-based method.
A set of data for applying the method is presented including over 70 materials
in pure or semi-finished form, over 20 manufacturing processes and some
20 other life cycle processes.
Other contributions of this research comprise an analysis of the current
research in environmental evaluation and in environmental product development,
a classification of tools and methods for environmental assessment in
design and the identification of missing links between existing methods
for environmental evaluation and their application in material and process
selection in product development.
The project period was 1997 - 2000
Supervisors were Torben
Lenau and Leo Alting