Design through the 12 principles of green engineering

Design through the 12 principles of green engineering: First penned in 2003, we take a look at Anastas and Zimmerman’s report as a foundation for sustainability and consider why it is more relevant today than ever before.

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We don’t know it all

It’s always reassuring being made aware of things you didn’t know existed, that you embody without even knowing!

Recently Professor Beverley Gibbs, Chief Academic Officer at the UKs newest engineering university NMITE, did just that by bringing to Kristo’s attention Anastas and Zimmerman’s 12 principles of green design.

The points outlined are a tool for asking the right questions, considering the right factors, and building in the right parameters as design criteria.

  1. Designers need to strive to ensure that all material and energy inputs and outputs are as inherently non-hazardous as possible.
  2.  It is better to prevent waste than to treat or clean up waste after it is formed.
  3.  Separation and purification operations should be a component of the design framework.
  4.  System components should be designed to maximize mass, energy and temporal efficiency.
  5.  System components should be output pulled rather than input pushed through the use of energy and materials.
  6.  Embedded entropy and complexity must be viewed as an investment when making design choices on recycle, reuse or beneficial disposition.
  7.  Targeted durability, not immortality, should be a design goal.
  8.  Design for unnecessary capacity or capability should be considered a design flaw. This includes engineering “one size fits all” solutions.
  9. Multi-component products should strive for material unification to promote disassembly and value retention (minimize material diversity).
  10. Design of processes and systems must include integration of interconnectivity with available energy and materials flows.
  11. Performance metrics include designing for performance in commercial “after-life”.
  12. Design should be based on renewable and readily available inputs throughout the life-cycle.

These principles were developed with engineering in mind, and focus on reducing risks to human health and the environment.

As consumers demand greener products but aren’t willing to pay more for them, these principles are as relevant today as when they were written 20 years ago.

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