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Ecodesign is an approach to designing products with special consideration for the environmental impacts of the product during its whole lifecycle. In a life cycle assessment, the life cycle of a product is usually divided into procurement, manufacture, use, and disposal.
Ecodesign is a growing responsibility and understanding of our ecological footprint on the planet. Green awareness, overpopulation, industrialization and an increased environmental population have led to the questioning of consumer values. It is imperative to search for new building solutions that are environmentally friendly and lead to a reduction in the consumption of materials and energy.
As the whole product's life cycle should be regarded in an integrated perspective, representatives from advance development, design, production, marketing, purchasing, and project management should work together on the Ecodesign of a further developed or new product. Together, they have the best chance to predict the holistic effects of changes of the product and their environmental impact.
An eco-design product has a cradle-to-cradle life cycle ensuring zero waste is created in the whole process. By mimicking life cycles in nature, eco-design is a fundamental concept in achieving a truly circular economy.
Environmental aspects which ought to be analysed for every stage of the life cycle are:
Waste (hazardous waste and other waste defined in environmental legislation) is only an intermediate step and the final emissions to the environment (e.g. methane and leaching from landfills) are inventoried. All consumables, materials and parts used in the life cycle phases are accounted for, and all indirect environmental aspects linked to their production.
The environmental aspects of the phases of the life cycle are evaluated according to their environmental impact on the basis of a number of parameters, such as extent of environmental impact, potential for improvement, or potential of change.
According to this ranking the recommended changes are carried out and reviewed after a certain time.
One instrument to identify the factors that are important for the reduction of the environmental impact during all lifecycle stages is the environmental effect analysis (EEA).
For an EEA the following are taken into account:
Ecodesign concepts currently have a great influence on many aspects of design; the impact of global warming and an increase in CO₂ emissions have led companies to consider a more environmentally conscious approach to their design thinking and process. In building design and construction, designers are taking on the concept of Ecodesign throughout the design process, from the choice of materials to the type of energy that is being consumed and the disposal of waste.
With respect to these concepts, online platforms dealing in only Ecodesign products are emerging, with the additional sustainable purpose of eliminating all unnecessary distribution steps between the designer and the final customer.
EcoMaterials, such as the use of local raw materials, are less costly and reduce the environmental costs of shipping, fuel consumption, and CO₂ emissions generated from transportation. Certified green building materials, such as wood from sustainably managed forest plantations, with accreditations from companies such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), or the Pan-European Forest Certification Council (PEFCC), can be used.
Several other types of components and materials can be used in sustainable buildings. Recyclable and recycled materials are commonly used in construction, but it is important that they don’t generate any waste during manufacture or after their life cycle ends. Reclaimed materials such as timber at a construction site or junkyard can be given a second life by reusing them as support beams in a new building or as furniture. Stones from an excavation can be used in a retaining wall. The reuse of these items means that less energy is consumed in making new products and a new natural aesthetic quality is achieved.
Off-grid homes only use clean electric power. They are completely separated and disconnected from the conventional electricity grid and receive their power supply by harnessing active or passive energy systems.
These systems use the principle of harnessing the power generated from renewable and inexhaustible sources of energy, for example; solar, wind, thermal, biomass, and geothermal energy.
Solar power is a widely known and used renewable energy source. An increase in technology has allowed solar power to be used in a wide variety of applications. Two types of solar panels generate heat into electricity. Thermal solar panels reduce or eliminate the consumption of gas and diesel, and reduce CO₂ emissions. Photovoltaic panels convert solar radiation into an electric current which can power any appliance. However, this is a more complex technology and is generally more expensive to manufacture than thermal panels.
Biomass is the energy source created from organic materials generated through a forced or spontaneous biological process.
Geothermal energy is obtained by harnessing heat from the ground. This type of energy can be used to heat and cool homes. It eliminates dependence on external energy and generates minimum waste. It is also hidden from view as it is placed underground, making it more aesthetically pleasing and easier to incorporate in a design.
Wind turbines are a useful application for areas without immediate conventional power sources, e.g., rural areas with schools and hospitals that need more power. Wind turbines can provide up to 30% of the energy consumed by a household but they are subject to regulations and technical specifications, such as the maximum distance at which the facility is located from the place of consumption and the power required and permitted for each property.
Buildings that integrate passive energy systems (bioclimatic buildings) are heated using non-mechanical methods, thereby optimizing natural resources. The use of optimal daylight plays an integral role in passive energy systems. This involves the positioning and location of a building to allow and make use of sunlight throughout the whole year. By using the sun's rays, thermal mass is stored into the building materials such as concrete and can generate enough heat for a room.
A green roof is a roof partially or completely covered with plants or other vegetation. This creates insulation that helps regulate the building's temperature. It also retains water, providing a water recycling system. It also provides soundproofing.
Recycling has been used in art since the early part of the 20th century, when cubist artist Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) and Georges Braque (1882–1963) created collages from newsprints, packaging and other found materials. The "Outside Art" movement is recognized as a genuine expressive art form, and is celebrated because of the materials used and not in spite of them. The same principle can be used inside the home, where found objects are now displayed with pride and collecting certain objects and materials to furnish a home is now admired rather than looked down upon.
There is a huge demand in Western countries to decorate homes in a "green" style. A lot of effort is placed into recycled product design and the creation of a natural look. This ideal is also a part of developing countries, although their use of recycled and natural products is often based in necessity and wanting to get maximum use out of materials.