Ecodesign and material selection for eco-innovation in office furniture products
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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This thesis focuses on eco-design trade-offs and material selection in a Small to Medium–Sized Enterprise (SME) producing office furniture. The rationale for undertaking this work is based on the wide acceptance that eco-design uptake in SMEs remains low and the need for SMEs to adopt eco-design is pressing. SMEs constitute 99.9% of UK private sector business and it has been estimated that SMEs account for approximately 64-70% of overall pollution from industry. Supporting SMEs in adopting eco-design is challenging. The complexities of eco-design decision-making, poor understanding of environmental trade-offs, limited access to relevant information and complex eco-design methods (amongst others) negatively affect an SME’s ability to reduce a product’s environmental impacts. The aim of this research is to deepen understanding of eco-design by investigating eco-design trade-offs and material selection during the development of eco-innovative office furniture products. This improves understanding of environmental impact reduction at the material selection and concept stage of the design process. The research design is an intensive single case study at Orangebox, a UK market leader in the design and manufacture of office furniture. The case company is selected, as a best practice example of eco-design integration within an SME. Four embedded case studies of New Product Development (NPD) are conducted within the main case. The research employs a multi-strategy design using both qualitative and quantitative methods and is delivered over two stages. The contributions to knowledge of the thesis are (1) the identification and description of a set of eco-design trade-offs linked to specific eco-design strategies (design for disassembly, light-weighting, material streamlining) and (2) the thesis argues that stakeholders play a crucial role in eco-innovative material selection. From this, the thesis presents a conceptual classification of a material portfolio incorporating eco-design strategies and trade-offs to facilitate eco-innovation during NPD.
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