Products that, once produced are not used afterwards, are not environmentally sound, even if manufacture was based on environmentally acceptable criteria; resources and energy have already bee used up for manufacture and transportation. With a view to an efficient use of resources ECODESIGN should therefore always bear in mind the real demand. Car-sharing would be a good example for an efficient use of resources; a group of 10 – 15 persons share one car.
If functionality is the main concern in product design one has to deal with the issue of kind and frequency of use and easy handling. Actual use and frequency of use are essential criteria for the benefit of a product and the resources used for its manufacture. For this purpose, use of the product should be self-explanatory, and the product should clearly show its potential functions and the way it works. This can be realized by ensuring simple handling of the product.
Ergonomics also have a bearing on the total consumption of resources used for a product. The overall environmental performance of a product also depends on actual use during its service life; ergonomically poor design will cause the user to discontinue use of the product or to prematurely discard it.
As products are usually produced for different users and different conditions of use, adaptability of the product (e.g. adequate height adjustment, etc.) constitutes an important feature. Individual adaptability and ergonomic design are to ensure that users like to use or work with the product for a long period of time.
Many products are needed and used on rare occasions or in special situation. When they are not in use, however, it is important – not only for environmental reasons - that their space requirement for storing is as small as possible; they would otherwise block precious floor space. Approaches to space saving consist in solutions using stackable or collapsible elements or transferring to other spaces (e.g. joint use of a washing machine in the basement).
This refers to the input of preparatory and follow-up work needed to be able to use the product. This includes the input before, during, and after use, such as set-up time, work time for the actual use of the product, and follow-up activities such as take-down, cleaning, stowing away, storing. Apart from the resources involved (e.g. cleansing agents,...) the time required for these activities is an important factor, which determines whether or not the product is actually used and whether the input of resources yields any benefit.
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