Material Selection in Green Design and Environmental Cost Analysis

EPA Grant Number: R829598
Title: Material Selection in Green Design and Environmental Cost Analysis
Investigators: Lin, Li , VanBenschoten, John E. , Vena, John
Institution: The State University of New York at Buffalo
EPA Project Officer: Karn, Barbara
Project Period: January 1, 2002 through December 31, 2004
Project Amount: $325,000
RFA: Technology for a Sustainable Environment (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development


As corrective efforts to remedy environmental damages have proven insufficient, ineffective, and increasingly costly, it is most effective to prevent the adverse impact to the environment from the very source by designing and manufacturing environmentally friendly "green products." To fill the critical research gap in design evaluation of products' environmental impact, this research has the following objectives: (1) to develop a methodology for material selection in green design by evaluating the products' end-of-life environmental impact to human health by toxic emission from the materials used; (2) to analyze the environmental cost in green design by considering cost to the manufacturer and cost to society, and evaluating the significance of product recovery options; and to collaborate with the industry and conduct a multidisciplinary industrial study of selected industrial products using the developed methodology for validation and further development. Using the material selection methodology and the environmental cost analysis, design engineers will be able to compare product design alternatives to reach acceptable, consistent and environmentally conscious design decisions.


This research will first develop a material selection methodology in design to assess a product's environmental impact. Using product data on materials directly from BOM information in CAD/PDM systems and by analyzing ease of disassembly, the research uses a number of metrics to measure the product's end-of-life environmental impact in terms of toxicity, including Aversive-Health-Effect Parameters (Raleigh et al. 1995, J. Environ. Eng.), and the Carnegie Mellon University-Equivalent Toxicity (Horvath et al. 1994, Environ. Sci. & Tech.). The analysis of cost to the manufacturer and cost to society realistically represent the impact of the recovery options at the product's end-of-life. Various product recovery options are analyzed, including maintainability/serviceability, reuse, re-manufacturing, and recycling. Through the modeling of cost to the manufacturer and cost to society, the tradeoffs and sensitivity of total environmental cost to these recovery options are discussed. To provide support to the design decision-makers, a multi-objective optimization problem is formulated to minimize the product's environmental impact. It considers toxicity of the materials used, product recoverability, and un- recovered portion of the product at its end-of-life.

A multidisciplinary research team (Industrial Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Social and Preventive Medicine) will collaborate with an industrial partner, Xerox Corporation, to conduct a study of selected products from Xerox. The study will not only validate the developed methodology on material selection in green design, but also explore opportunities to extend the research in environmental cost analysis to include user cost.

Expected Results:

The material selection methodology will enable design engineers to represent products in an extended BOM structure and include material information. Using the relational database for materials, emission and toxicity, it provides invaluable decision support to design engineers in evaluating a product's environmental impact by minimizing its adverse effects to human health.

Estimated Improvement:

Taking a "prevention at source" approach, the methodology will fill the critical research gap identified in the literature review. It will not only demonstrate viable solutions to design engineers for making sound design decisions for protecting the environment, but also extend the "cradle?to?grave perspective to a "cradle?to?reincarnation" and even "cradle?to?cradle" treatment by considering all recovery options, including maintain/service, reuse, re- manufacturing and recycling. Due to the significance of preventing health hazards that result from the incorrect use of materials in design and improper product recovery decisions, the potential impact of this research is to provide concrete technical support to enable well informed environmentally conscious design. Its benefit will be the well being of generations to come.

Supplemental Keywords:

toxicity, human health, manufacturer's environmental cost, societal environmental cost, product recovery., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Sustainable Industry/Business, Chemical Engineering, Sustainable Environment, cleaner production/pollution prevention, Environmental Chemistry, Technology for Sustainable Environment, Civil/Environmental Engineering, Economics and Business, Chemistry and Materials Science, Engineering, Environmental Engineering, life cycle analysis, societal environmental cost, manufacturer's environmental cost, cleaner production, green design, waste minimization, waste reduction, environmentally conscious manufacturing, sustainable development, economics, recovery, clean technology, emission controls, material selection, recycling, environmentally friendly green products, material selection methodology, toxicity, product reuse, life cycle assessment, product life cycle, reuse, pollution prevention, source reduction, environmental cost analysis, human health, product design, product recovery, environmentally conscious design, green technology