Environmental assessment approach for the early stages of product design

Galina Medyna

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


Engineering designers wield a tremendous power as they are responsible for the design of a large part of the world that surrounds us. All artificial products and services were once a pristine bit of nature and the impact that mankind has on this planet is a growing concern at all levels, from single customers to world-wide companies and governments. The task of producing something that does not contribute to this impact is daunting. The first part of this thesis elaborates on engineering design and the ways of influencing product design towards more environmentally conscious solutions. Engineering design is a complex activity that can be modelled as a process made up of three basic phases - conceptual, embodiment, and detailed design. The decisions made during the early stages of this process are responsible for the majority of the final costs, monetary, environmental or otherwise, of a project. Any changes made to the design after these stages not only unnecessarily bring up the costs, but there are also fewer opportunities to make them. The question remains of how designers can be supported during the design process to produce more environmentally conscious artefacts. Design for Environment guidelines are a good start but they do not provide quantifiable data, full LCA methods are extremely resource consuming and do not provide robust results before the design is finalised, etc. In order to alleviate the shortfalls of these methods, the thesis proposes the DA-Ex approach based on exergy and dimensional analysis. The aim of the approach is to use readily available data that can be stored in a lightweight database, be applicable during the early phases of the design process when the studied artefact is not yet fully defined, provide results of comparable quality to those obtained with existing methods and tools, and offer ways of expanding the studies to fields related to sustainability beyond environmental assessment. The DA-Ex approach first considers exergy transformation efficiency, resource use efficiency, and environmental emission metrics. An expansion is also proposed to cost analysis. Several case studies were performed to test the DA-Ex approach. The results obtained with the approach were compared to those provided by existing methods and indicators, although they could not be compared number to number due to the fact that all methods and indicators function with different characterisations and base hypotheses. The next step for the DA-Ex approach is to include a systemic view, as to not only cover the designed artefact in a study but also its environment and what impact it has on it.
Translated title of the contributionEnvironmental assessment approach for the early stages of product design
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Coatanéa, Eric, Supervising Professor
  • Millet, Dominique, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-4985-4
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-4986-1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • product development
  • engineering design
  • environmental assessment
  • exergy
  • dimensional analysis


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