Education for sustainable production: teaching methods for incorporating life cycle thinking into product design and engineering
Shaw, Katherine, Krall, Sybille, Miller, Andrew, Ip, Kenneth and Bench, Matt (2007) Education for sustainable production: teaching methods for incorporating life cycle thinking into product design and engineering In: 5th International Conference on Design and manufacture for Sustainable Development, 10 - 11 July, Loughborough, UK.
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For society to make the shift to sustainable consumption and production, it will be necessary to equip product designers with the appropriate skills in sustainability. This paper reports the results of a collaborative teaching and learning project undertaken during 2006, by the University of Brighton and 5 EU partner institutions to produce a suite of environmental teaching modules. Each institution brought specific expertise to the project ranging from sustainability to product design. The module developed by Brighton University aims to introduce life cycle thinking and demonstrate how it can be incorporated into product design and intends to furnish students with the tools to incorporate appropriate environmental mitigation measures into the design process. It was important within the module to provide students from a variety of subject backgrounds with a fundamental understanding of environmental issues and the following components were included: • Use of a staged process to introduce the concept of life cycle assessment (LCA) by using the actual steps of a products life cycle as the key learning stages. • Introduction of the concept of other environmental benchmarking/ indicator tools (e.g. eco-rucksacks) which may be more suited to certain product design applications than a comprehensive LCA, whilst encouraging an appreciation of the full method. • Use of problem based learning through the design and subsequent re-design of a kettle after the introduction of each life cycle stage. It was also considered important to place the teaching within a context wider than the system boundaries of the LCA process as defined by the ISO standards. Subsequently, towards the end of the module, the holistic approach of ‘cradle to cradle’ design and intelligent materials pooling was introduced to foster an environmentally conscious design philosophy. An evaluation of the course was undertaken after its first delivery. The results of this and scope for further improvement on delivery and engagement of students from non-environmental disciplines is discussed.
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