New Product Design:


Design for Environment (DfE)

Systemic Consideration of Design Performance with Respect to Environmental Objectives

By: Vadim Kotelnikov

Founder, Ten3 Business e-Coach Your 360 Achievement Catalyst,,, and


Cleaner Production Design for Environment (DfE) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) New Product Development New Product Design Cleaner Production

Five Steps of the DfE Process1

  1. Assess environmental impacts

  2. Research the market

  3. Run an ideas workshop

  4. Select design strategies

  5. Design the product

DfE Strategies1

  1. Selecting environmentally low-impact materials

  2. Avoiding toxic and hazardous materials

  3. Choosing cleaner production and lean manufacturing processes

  4. Maximizing energy efficiency in manufacture and use

  5. Maximizing water efficiency in use

  6. Designing for waste minimization

Outline of a Design Brief1


  • Define the aim of the design project

  • List specific objectives

General requirements

  • Define the primary function of the product

  • State the durability requirements

  • List aesthetic considerations

  • Define ergonomics requirements

  • List the safety requirements and issues

  • Outline the required performance and quality

Environmental objectives

  • List specific strategies relating to materials, efficiency, recovery at end of life and so on

  • Include quantitative targets where relevant

Production requirements

  • Specify manufacturing requirements and limitations

  • Include any objectives or targets

Regulations and standards

  • List any mandatory regulations, standards or codes of practice relevant to the product


  • Specify limits on costs of production to ensure that the product is competitive




Design for Waste Minimization

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New Product Design

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)


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DfE Defined

Design for Environment (DfE), also known as eco-design and green design, recognizes that environmental impacts must be considered during the new product design process, along with all of the usual design criteria. The purpose of green design is to evaluate and identify ways to minimize the environmental burden resulting from products.


It is defined as systemic consideration of design performance with respect to environmental, health, and safety objectives over the full product life cycle.

The Tree of Business

Why and How of DfE

Lyfe Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides the framework for analyzing environmental impacts associated with a product, and DfE is the vehicle for practical application of that knowledge. DfE refers to a systematic process to improve the environmental performance of a product by changing its design. It has been estimated that most of the environmental impact of a product is determined by its design, and design changes can completely change a product's environmental footprint.

DfE usually starts with a review of LCA information (either qualitative or quantitative) to identify the primary environmental impacts of a product.

The LCA may be supplemented by market research to assess customer needs and priorities or communication with stakeholders such as communities and NGOs to understand their expectations of the company. Cross-departmental teams including design engineers, marketing representatives, R&D, and others establish priorities for improvement based on a range of factors such as: the magnitude of the environmental impact, potential for cost savings, potential for increased marketability of a "green" product, degree of risk posed by different impacts to corporate image/brand, level of concern expressed by key stakeholders and other such issues.

Use of LCA as a DfE Tool

The value of Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) is in its ability to map a product's environmental impact across its whole life-cycle. Use of LCA as a DfE tool can1:

  • Benchmark the environmental performance of existing products

  • Develop environmental targets for the product development team to pursue

  • Provide an 'work-in-progress' assessment tool to review how a concept or detailed design might perform environmentally

  • Help the product development team make decisions regarding materials and components

  • Identify previously unknown impacts associated with a product and associated consumables

Simplified Approach to LCA During the Product Design Stage

Traditional life cycle assessment (LCA) methodologies are accurate and accepted ways of analyzing environmental burdens. However, a good LCA is time-consuming, expensive, and depends upon having clear and reliable information about the product. The new trend is towards simplified LCAs  instead of undertaking complex and detailed quantitative evaluations. It is particularly important to have a simplified LCA methodology to support decisions at the conceptual stage of product design. Decisions during the conceptual design stage have a great effect on the environment impact of the product. However, the detailed product information necessary for traditional quantitative LCA is often unavailable. A simplified LCA approach, called a learning surrogate LCA, was developed to make LCA predictions during the conceptual stages of design3

 Case in Point  Canon

According to Canon Production System (CPS), 9 wastes are to be eliminated:

  • Product Design. Producing products with more functions than necessary.... More

Toyota Production System

 Case in Point  Hewlett Packard

HP incorporates socially responsible initiatives into its business operations. For instance, under a program called "Design for Environment," which was begun in mid-1990s, the firm recognizes that the environmental performance of many products is determined at the design stage.


By designing with corporate consciousness in mind, HP was able to develop printers that have parts which snap together, eliminating the need for adhesives that could be environmentally unsafe. HP is also experimenting with the prototype of a printer that is biodegradable, derived from corn maize. While it's not quite ready for the consumer market, it illustrates the type of environmentally friendly thinking that HP feels is essential.

3 Strategies of Market Leaders

 Case in Point  Ford Lio Ho Motor

Ford Lio Ho, Taiwan established a Corporate Synergy System (CSS) with its suppliers to enhance its overall corporate environmental performance. Ford Lio Ho has also requested that all of its suppliers become certified under ISO 14000.

The total investment in the Green Productivity Demonstration Programs (GPDP) options and corporate synergy projects was estimated to be US$ 15.6 million. The environmental benefits generated from these GPDP options during the second year are listed below and resulted in savings of US$ 6.8 million:

         Raw materials consumption reduced by 8,000 tons;

         Water consumption reduced by 58,000 tons;

         Electricity consumption reduced by 8,900,000 kW;

         General waste reduced by 1,000 tons;

         Hazardous waste reduced by 290 tons; and

         CO2 emissions reduced by 4,500 tons.


8 Best Practices of Successful Companies

  • Design new products for efficient manufacture... More

Design for Waste Minimization

Waste minimization is a series of cyclical systems where materials are re-used or re-cycled as part of a closed loop... More

Fun4Biz: Cleaner Product Ideas



  1. "Design + Environment", Helen Lewis and John Gertsakis

  2. "Applying DfE through a Green Productivity Demonstration Program", Raymond Leung

  3. "A Simplified Approach to LCA During the Product Design Stage", Prof. Jahau Lewis Chen and Mr. Chih-Wei Liau




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