Supporting Environmentally-benign Design at Conceptual Stage
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An ‘environmentally-benign design’ is defined as that which causes little or no harm to the natural environment and may be achieved by reducing the environmental impact of the design solutions conceptualised, to be eventually embodied into a product. During the early stages of design, iterative design activities of generation, evaluation, modification and selection are performed to affirm alternatives to a design solution from several fragmented and highly abstract ideas. Thus, the designer takes critical decisions with respect to the various criteria, such as, cost, aesthetics, ergonomics, environment, etc., and these cannot be easily rectified at later stages. Therefore, it is imperative to support sound decisionmaking at this stage of design, as it is at the conceptual stage that most number of decisions are taken and in turn, the environmental footprint of a design is committed. Thus, to support environmentally-benign design decisions at conceptual stage, appropriate selection of concept from a number of solution-variants is critical, and requires the support of evaluation of these solution-variants with respect to its environmental impact. However, these solution-variants are characterised as being highly abstract, lacking concrete descriptions and having incomplete information with respect to life cycle, making it challenging to estimate environmental impact with accuracy. This dissertation illustrates, through empirical study, the merit in making available environmental impact values of solutions for concept selection at an early stage which in turn, improves the design decisions and the environmentalbenignity of the overall design. The contributions of this research are towards (i) design domain, through ontological description of conceptual solutions grounded in quantifiable constructs (of SAPPhIRE), while capturing the inherent abstraction of this stage; (ii) evaluation with respect to environment, by identifying uncertainty prevalent in conceptual stage with respect to LCA and estimating the EI of a solution, with associated uncertainty, and (iii) supporting real-time design decision-making by the prescribed ‘concepTe’ tool. An acronym for ‘conceptual design Tool for environmentally-benign design’, the tool aims to support designer’s in taking real-time design decisions during conceptualisation by aiding in the evaluation of the solutions being designed, by a proposed method for estimating Environmental Impact (EI) of a solution, with uncertainty association. A ‘proof of concept’ of the intended tool is further evaluated for its effectiveness, through empirical studies, and is found to show promise in supporting environmentally benign design at conceptual stage
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