example of ecodesign: green and sustainable architecture

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The circular economy is a concept that is framed within the principles of sustainable development, whose aim is to produce goods and services that promote responsible consumption and reduce the waste of raw materials, water, and energy. It's a model that takes into consideration economic as well as environmental and social aspects, based on the principle of “closing the loop” of resources, products, services, waste, and materials. Companies have a decisive role in promoting this production model when it comes to designing their products so that they're sustainable throughout their entire life cycle. 

What is ecodesign and why is it so important?

Ecodesign consists of incorporating environmental criteria in the conception and development stage of a good or service, with the aim of reducing its ecological footprint in the different life cycle stages of the product: from the extraction of raw materials, transportation, manufacturing, distribution, and use until the end of its useful life.

Unlike the linear economy, where we “take, make, use, dispose”,  the circular economy seeks to imitate the life cycle of nature. Everything is reused following a sustainable design model, giving the item new value and extending its useful life. In addition to reducing its environmental impact, we can save money and resources throughout the entire value chain, optimize our use of energy, and reduce waste.

We currently have different tools to assess the environmental profile of a product to know how we can incorporate adjustments to achieve an ecological design in accordance with established standards. These tools include: the life cycle analysis (LCA), the carbon footprint and ecological footprint calculation, and the assessment of the product's environmental strategy. However, life cycle analysis is considered to be the most comprehensive methodology for assessing the impact of the item or service on the environment, as it quantifies both "input" (energy resources, raw materials) and "output" (environmental emissions and waste) variables in the value chain. 

Furthermore, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute has been granting the C2C label for years, which recognizes and encourages innovation in the development of sustainable products.

design of more sustainable containers

Cradle to cradle (C2C)

This certification assess the circularity of materials and products used in industry. Its aim is to promote the innovation and design of products that have a positive effect on the environment and people. In its analysis, it considers five categories for sustainable products: 

  • reuse of materials
  • material health
  • use of renewable energy
  • water management
  • social justice

Ecodesign criteria for products

In 2005, professors from the Stockholm Royal Institute of Technology, Conrad Luttrop and Jessica Lagerstedt, developed the fundamentals of ecodesign from their study of different guides used by companies and organizations. They summarized these guidelines in 10 golden rules for a sustainable and environmentally responsible design.

green facade, part of sustainable architecture

  1. Toxicity: removing the use of toxic substances or, failing that, keeping them in closed cycles where they can be reused for other products.  
  2. Internal management: improving logistics to minimize the consumption of energy and resources in production and transportation.
  3. Structure: making the most of the structural possibilities of the item and the materials to minimize the weight and volume of the product without compromising its functionality.
  4. Consumption in the useful life: reducing the use of energy and resources during the useful life.
  5. Customer service: promoting repair and upgrade systems.
  6. Products with greater durability: favoring an increase in the useful life of the product.
  7. Materials and finishes: using quality structural and exterior treatment materials to protect the final product from corrosion or external agents.
  8. Identification: facilitating upgrade, repair, and recycling with manuals and labels that show the best way to do it.
  9. Material hygiene: facilitating upgrade, repair, and recycling by using simple materials, avoiding mixing components that make its ultimate recycling difficult.
  10. Joints: minimizing the use of joint components and designing toward a system with as few joints as possible.