Resource Management

Sustainability for designers - continue to develop products that meet current needs, while conserving the environment for future generations.

Key terms





The ability to replenish itself and therefore can last indefinitely.

Solar will virtually never run out of energy.

Renewable sources

Natural source that replenishes itself or is inexhaustible (never runs out).

Non-renewable sources

The natural source that does not replenish itself at a sustainable rate (equal to or lower than its extraction).

Fossil fuels like the name suggests are fossils and take millions of years to form, and at the rate that we use them, we’ll run out in less than 100 years.


Raw material (in natural form)

Oil in the ground; Wind

(Resource) Reserve

The storage of a natural source that can be identified, quantified, and qualified.

Reservoir, battery

Proven - accessible, readily available

Fossil Fuels

Probable - in an experimental state

Solar power, Tidal energies

Design for Manufacturing (DfM)

Designing taking account for assembly. Easing the process of manufacturing to ensure product quality and...


Design for Disassembly (DfD)

Designing for maintenance and disposal. Easing the process of repair and sorting for recycling. Standardization of parts


Process Streamlining

The reduction of manufacturing



Renewable energy sources

The general advantage of renewables is that they do not emit any CO₂, require little maintenance, thus saving money over an extended period.





Latest Developments


Through the circular motion created by wind, turbines generate energy

  • Can be scaled down for personal use

  • Low operational cost

  • Varies with wind conditions

  • Create noise

  • Visual pollution

  • High installation cost

New technologies are currently being developed, increasing the efficiency and lowering the cost of wind energy.


Through photovoltaic cells, the panels capture the energy from solar radiation

  • Can be installed for personal use

  • No operational costs (in personal use)

  • Varies with solar conditions

  • Visual pollution

  • Farms occupy large areas

In recent years installing shingles (solar roof tiles) has become more accessible and is helping to avoid visual pollution.


Through the circular motion created by the flow of water, turbines generate energy.

  • Serves as a dam and reservoir

  • Can operate 24/7

  • Adjusts to demands

  • Dependent on water flow (river size/speed)

  • High installation costs

  • Medium operation costs

Private companies supported by crowdfunding are developing ‘micro’ hydroelectric plants for low-income areas.




Through the digestion/ combustion of biowaste, energy is released and captured.

  • Mitigates biowaste

  • If emissions are countered by the planting of trees, it is renewable

  • Adjusts to demands

  • Still emits CO₂ into the atmosphere through machinery

  • Requires transport of biowaste to the plant

In developing, areas in India businesses such as Husk Power Systems provide farmers with cheap renewable electricity from their rice waste.


Waste mitigation strategies

The reduction of waste material. The general advantage is that it is often cheaper than buying a new product.






The reduction of raw materials and energy used during manufacturing, usage, and waste at disposal.

  • Might reduce the quality

  • Hight price in short term



Prolonging a product/component’s lifespan by using it for a different or same purpose.

  • Quality of products might diminish

  • Higher risk of breaking down

Glass jars, plastic water bottles


Prolonging a product's lifespan by restoring a product back into working condition

Car maintenance,

  • Requires additional parts and possibly budget


Old parts, old product - by cleaning up the product to the original state



New parts, old product - by repairing and upgrading



The process of recovering waste for manufacturing material or energy production.

  • Requires precise sorting



The revision of a traditional design to reduce cost, waste, and improve/increase ease of use, performance, and quality.

  • Possibly disabling from the original use

  • Loss of original design



An incentive to make manufacturers use recycled materials, which prompts the public to recycle.

  • Temporary

  • External motivation

Installation of wind power in The Netherlands

Take back: Manufacturers are responsible to take back outdated/obsolete products and recycle them.



Technological convergence

The combination of multiple types of technologies into one product to reduce space and resources.

  • Increased probability of breaking down

Smartphone - phone, camera, microphone, gaming device, computer...


A label that gives information to the consumers about the environmental impacts of the product

  • May confuse the customers



Mitigation of environmental impacts

In general, the drivers to these methods are consumer pressure and legislation.

Eco Design

Green Design

Clean Technology

Sustainable Design

Designing for the environment, based on materials, energy, and pollutants/waste.

The reduction of impact on nature while in use (incremental).

The reduction of impact during the manufacturing processes.

Total embodied energy, from conceptualization to disposal/regeneration

Uses concepts such as Cradle to Cradle instead of Cradle to Grave.

The focus of environmental issues through:

  • Use of recyclable, nonpoluting and nontoxic materials
  • Efficiency of product
  • Disposal instructions
  • Labeling

Ensuring a neutral impact or minimizing negative impacts through:

  • Promoting positive impacts

  • Conserving natural resources

  • Reduction of pollution/waste

  • Reducing energy during manufacturing


Green Products

Design objectives of green products:



  • Efficiency of materials and products

  • Planned obsolescence

  • Display of correct package disposal methods

  • Ease of recycling process, through dematerialization

  • Damage or pollution for a chosen material

  • Long-term harm

  • Noise, odor and visual pollution

  • Safety hazards

Life Cycle Analysis - taking account the impacts that a product throughout its life. Through planned obsolescence designers attempt to increase longevity and reduce the impact at the disposal stage.


Evaluation of sustainability:

Factor Question
Raw materials used Are you using materials that can be recycled and are excavated?
Energy during production  
Production methods  
Atmospheric pollutants  
Disposal issues  


Life cycle analysis

The Economy of Products / Loops


Linear / Cradle to Grave

Circular / Cradle to Cradle




Open loop -

Closed loop -





Types of Philosophies


Cradle to Cradle

Cradle to Grave



Take -.





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