Title: Environmental analysis of the Product Life Cycle by using an aggregated metric based on exergy

Authors: Eric Coatanea, Markku Kuuva, Petri E. Makkonen, Tanja Saarelainen, Harri Nordlund

Addresses: Machine Design Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Helsinki University of Technology, PO Box 4100, FIN-02015 TKK, Finland. ' Machine Design Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Helsinki University of Technology, PO Box 4100, FIN-02015 TKK, Finland. ' Machine Design Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Helsinki University of Technology, PO Box 4100, FIN-02015 TKK, Finland. ' Machine Design Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Helsinki University of Technology, PO Box 4100, FIN-02015 TKK, Finland. ' Foundry Laboratory, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Helsinki University of Technology, PO Box 4100, FIN-02015 TKK, Finland

Abstract: Environmental accountancy and environmental impacts analysis are characterised by fragmented approaches encompassing a number of different perspectives and analytical techniques. Although Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method is the most commonly used tool by which environmentally conscious design is carried out, the scientific reliability of LCA techniques has been questioned. Indeed, LCA techniques include limitations such as a lack of adequate inventory data, disparate underlying assumptions and environmental assessment made in terms that are not directly comparable. Those restrictions limit the applicability of LCA methods during early development stages. This article addresses this shortcoming by outlining previous researches in life cycle analysis and thermodynamics. It is argued herein that the early development phases require a simplified approach based on exergy. It is argued that the concept of exergy is a broad-based measure assessing the environmental impact and resource consumption of the Product Life Cycle (PLC). In addition, the article addresses a more ambitious research problem by integrating environmental impact and resource consumption into a broader design framework, described briefly in this article. The aim of the design framework presented herein is to optimise the comparison and evaluation process, which ends the early design process. This is in our viewpoint the first step of our work toward unified design theory based on topological principles.

Keywords: dimensional analysis theory; environmental metrics; exergy; topology; environmental analysis; product life cycle; environmental accountancy; environmental impact; environmentally conscious design; life cycle analysis; thermodynamics; LCA; resource consumption; design theory.

DOI: 10.1504/IJPLM.2007.018297

International Journal of Product Lifecycle Management, 2007 Vol.2 No.4, pp.337 - 355

Published online: 14 May 2008 *

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