Rivera J. (a), Hernandis B.(a), Cordeiro S.(a), González R.(b) and Miranda O.(a)
a) Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), Valencia, Spain.
b) Pontifical Xavierian University, Cali, Colombia.

Keywords: systemic design; sustainability; methodologies; life cycle; intangibility.

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to analyse a Concurrent Design Model (CDM), as well as tools and design methodologies such as ABC-Analysis, MET-Matrix, Eco-Design Checklist, LiDS-wheel, Environmental Assessment of Product Strategy, among other means, oriented to support sustainable processes and eco-design, identifying, classifying and evaluating their compatibility with the aforementioned model. Additionally, it seeks to highlight the value of intangibility and immateriality of products and services, under a change of mind set, evolving from product design considered only as a physical fact, to be conceived as a product-system that responds to specific consumer demands. This analysis focuses on addressing sustainability criteria and basic design criteria in the early stages of the design process of sustainable products and services. Factors such as those addressed by Vezzoli & Manzini (2008) and Shedroff (2009) that seek to reach sustainability by optimising the lifetime of both products and services, become then relevant to the study. In the process, different strategies of analysis (such as new concept development, reduction of material usage, reduction of impact during use, among others) are employed. These inputs are managed in the CDM under a multi-criteria vision for the rapid integration of environmental aspects and as a result, premises related to the development of eco- efficient projects are achieved.


In the last forty-five years, sustainable design activities have made waste and inefficiency slightly less wasteful and ineffective (Chapman, 2009). However, this limited sustainability perspective is not enough from an evolutionary standpoint of in time projection. Other approaches in terms of alternatives and means to achieve a sustainable society at all levels are necessary, regardless of scale or the productive sectors of activity and service provision, be it local or global.

Design activity has a major responsibility on the impact of the current state of the environment, but also has a vital role in the search of solutions. In the present context, it is imperative to reflect on activities and methodologies for product and service design development in a sustainable way. In fact, as pointed out by Chapman (2009), design methodologies have been rarely committed with the most fundamental questions of sustainability, which is very striking considering the meaning and place of products in human beings lives, and the role of material and immaterial goods in the development of societies.

It might seem a paradox that designers who are responsible for configuring products and their associated services, would not consider the effect and reach of their decisions. This study addresses such issues by means of a methodological approach that helps designers and organizations to navigate towards a society with fewer unnecessary and superficial projects by omission or lack of knowledge, in terms of its environmental performance. The purpose is to highlight increasing trends such as virtualization, and dematerialisation, which some everyday products and services are leading with a high value added.

The systemic model of concurrent design approach

The Design Concurrent Model proposed by Hernandis & Iribarren (1999) consists mainly of an Outer System and a Reference System (system under study or product-system). The Outer System consists of everything that involves the phenomenon that raises the problem or need. It considers the environmental aspects that provide considerations and constraints that influence the design problem. The Reference System is mainly composed of three basic subsystems: formal, functional and ergonomic.

These subsystems are at the same level, with no predominance of one over another in order to facilitate a more detailed analysis of the system under study. At the same time, these subsystems comprise other subsystems, components, variables, objectives and elements, considered the maximum degree of proposed disaggregation. In this way, the model proposed in (Hernandis & Iribarren, 1999) leads to a disaggregation by levels. In line with approaches such as those of Munari (2008), who notes that decomposing the problem into its integrating elements means to discover numerous sub-problems and a particular design problem is a set of many sub- problems.

Theoretical modelling Source Hernandis Iribarren

Derivation of the Outer System

In a previous study (Rivera & Hernandis, 2012), the authors proposed a way to facilitate and filter the Outer System analysis by focusing all the components into three subsystems: trend analysis, user profile analysis, and analysis of references.

Through this analysis, one can also identify the input variables related to the material context of a design problem, others associated with an immaterial context in which are considered psychological and psycho-social factors. Factors often ignored and that are also relevant at the time of generating a sustainable design solution. Based on this, a derivation of the Outer System of the CDM, considering basic design criteria and sustainability criteria for the development of products and services is proposed.

Derivation scheme of the outer system Source Adapted from Rivera et al

In this scenario, in relation to the criteria and qualities of the related phenomena of research, the material and the immaterial context are raised, as a way to identify criteria that validate the assumptions or knowledge about the concepts of perceived reality.

Analysis of tools and strategies for sustainable design

In a previous study, the authors reviewed and analysed some tools and strategies for sustainable design and eco-design for the integration of environmental premises into the design process (Rivera & Hernandis, 2012). The analysis helped to identify within these tools some Sustainability Criteria that can be related with the product life cycle. Therefore, it becomes possible to observe its relation with the Basic Design Criteria and to consider an approach for the development of products/services from the early stages, making use of a systems approach that considers sustainability at its core. Figure 3 shows a classification of eco-design and sustainable design tools applied to the product development process. According to Tischner (2001), these tools are adapted based on two criteria:

  • Requirements of complexity and time requiring tools to be used, and
  • The purpose of tools in terms of:
    • Environmental analysis of strengths and weaknesses,
    • Prioritization and selection of the most important potential improvement;
    • Assistance in the generation of ideas, design and draft of specifications, and
    • Coordination with other criteria: cost- benefit, feasibility, economic and similar studies.

Eco-design and sustainable design tools

This study analyses the compatibility of tools and strategies for both sustainable design and eco-design, within the design process. Sustainability criteria is considered in the early stages of the design process of a product/service. Thus, other tools and strategies that tend to intervene in later stages when only minor changes can be made, were not taken into account. Sometimes, such changes can lead to a complete redesign of an existing product. Among the tools considered in the analysis, some of them allow the selection of environmental improvements. These improvements can be carried out at the same time, and are compatible with the form, function and ergonomics requirements of CDM.

For the purpose of this study, the classification proposed by Rieradevall & Vinyets (1999) and Byggeth & Hochschorner (2006) was used. Time and ease of implementation of fifteen different types of eco-design tools are analysed. From the previous classifications seven tools are selected in order to recognize whether they meet the purposes of being easy to use, require extensive quantitative data and does not require much time to implement. The tools are ABC Analysis, MET-Matrix, Eco- design Checklist, Dominance Matrix, LiDS- Wheel, Environmental Assessment of Product Strategy and Design Change Assessment. After describing them, they were evaluated by means of a map based on the time required for its implementation and the complexity of the tool (Figure 4).

The analysis considers that the LiDS-Wheel principles (Brezet & van Hemel, 1997) can be applied to the CDM (Hernandis, 2010), due to the following aspects:

  • Early integration of the environmental aspects into the product and process development.
  • Flexibility to incorporate environmental improvements into the conception.
  • A life cycle approach that allows the impact analysis of the product over the environment.

A multi-criteria approach that can be combined with the traditional requirements of form, function and ergonomics of the CDM

Classification of environmental systems analysis tools selected

Map for the evaluation of tools

It is worth to highlight that the essence and the LiDS-Wheel strategies are reflected in other methodologies and concepts, such as those generated by Vezzoli & Manzini (2008), Shedroff (2009) and Crul & Diehl (2006). Later, these concepts will be considered to support the proposed approach.

Sustainability criteria of LiDS-Wheel in design methodologies

The LiDS-Wheel is a tool that allows an overview of the potential for environmental improvement through eight strategies. This tool is used in product redesigns, where guidelines for eco-design and sustainability are determined up from the analysis of the current state of a product.

Much of these tool strategies are reflected in other methodologies with sustainability and eco-design criteria, such as those developed by the UNEP and Delft University of Technology. Their strategies are included in Design for Sustainability: A practical approach for developing economies (Crul & Diehl, 2006). Already in the 70’s and 80’s, and with publications such as the report on the situation of the humanity in The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al. 1972), started a warning against the destabilization of the industrial society.

Considering the above and as stated by Bürdek (1994), some ecological requirements (waste collection, pollution reduction, reuse of materials, duration and repair of products, to say a few) can be related to the establishment of the sustainability criteria in the early stages of the design process. The classic view of waste that leads us to consider using economic arguments to address the designer’s work, the design for obsolescence, as coined by Bonsiepe (1978).

In the same way that Baran & Sweezy (1968) state that “…the variations in the products increasingly fallacious, variations in consumer goods, increasingly less satisfactory and more expensive, the spread of superfluous accessories…”, lead designers to target their approach, in addition to the basic fields of activity as the aesthetic and economic, towards the ecological, social and emotional problems. Moreover, as for the satisfaction of user needs, considerations were purely functional, as suggested by Löbach (1981), focused solely on the process of using.

Subsequent approaches, such as those of Vezzoli & Manzini (2008), argue that proper identification of environmental priorities is crucial for guiding design efforts and eventually establishing the selection criteria for alternative solutions. A proposal based on the consideration of some of the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) components (SETAC, 1992) establishes a design criteria and guidelines that can be summarized in seven basic concepts:

  • Material consumption minimization
  • Energy consumption minimization
  • Toxic emission minimization
  • Renewable and bio-compatible resources
  • Product lifespan optimization
  • Improvement of the lifespan of materials, and
  • Design for disassembly.

These design criteria have key points in common with strategies like the LiDS-wheel (Brezet & van Hemel, 1997), as both tools consider stages of product life cycle. However, like the LCA, the initial phase of its implementation the design process produces mainly qualitative data, the reason it could not determine the actual environmental impact of future products and services (Rivera, González, & Hernandis, 2013).

LiDS-Wheel strategies

Figure 5 shows the LiDS-wheel strategies (Brezet & van Hemel, 1997) according to their relation with the product system and the options that can be chosen for each strategy. The eight LiDS-wheel strategies are divided into three different levels, according to its product system relation (strategies 7 and 6), its relation with product structure (strategies 5, 4 and 3) or its relation with product components (strategies 2 and 1). The way to represent the strategies with a spiral is due to the cyclical approach these strategies should have towards sustainability. It is thought that these strategies should be focused not only on the redesigning of an existing product/service, but in the generation of new products, services and concepts in which sustainability criteria are applied from the early stages of the design process.

In a previous study (Rivera, González, & Hernandis, 2013), the integration of a tool or methodology for sustainable design or eco- design was performed by applying the principles of the wheel of strategies LiDS-wheel in the concurrent design model, since its principles can be applied at the conceptual stage in the development of a product and a process. In the analysis of the input variables, characteristics of the project are identified and are defined the requirements and previous determinants in its general aspects before performing the subdivision into the basic subsystems. In this step besides analyzing requirements and determinants, sustainability criteria into CDM must be applied.

The requirements and needs resulting from the outer system analysis were related to the variables coming from the strategies of the LiDS wheel. These are shown in the diagram in the form of capsules while determinants are shown alongside these capsules containing possible solutions to the requirements of form, function and ergonomics.

Study Case - Requirements Determinants

Figure 6 depicts indicating how sustainability criteria are related to the possible solutions. The circles indicate the number of the LiDS- wheel strategy each requirement would be associated. As can be seen in this case study, the integration of some of LiDS-Wheel strategies with input variables – project requirements – into CDM, where the option for more sustainable is identified to comply with project requirements.

Approaches for the design of sustainable products and services

Approaches for the design of sustainable products and services continuation

As a result of the above analysis, the compatibility study with the CDM is addressed. In the process, an analysis of the methods and concepts such as those proposed by Vezzoli & Manzini (2008) and Shedroff (2009) were done. Keywords extracted were related to LiDS-Wheel, and can be essential for the development of products and services with sustainability criteria. Through this analysis, one can identify the key actions and subjects that are directly related to the concept of design for sustainability. It ranges among those related to materials and processes, to those related with the emotional component to be widely regarded when this objective wants to be achieved.

Table 2a and 2b identifies the actions and subjects considered by some design methodologies for sustainability. It recognizes key points that allow the definition of Sustainability Criteria, which may be related with the Basic Design Criteria, to allow its application in the CDM. This classification is also divided into five approaches: Alternative concepts management, materials management, production management, use management, and end-of-life management. The idea is to identify and determine the timing of the life cycle of a product or service where sustainability criteria may be implemented.


Through the analysis of tools that consider sustainability criteria, and approaches of product design for sustainability, this study focused on life cycle that can identify the Sustainability Criteria.

It was highlighted how these criteria relate to the Basic Design Criteria of the CDM, from the initial stages of design process. Results from the previous analysis suggest that a product and/or sustainable service is characterized by:

  • Change their format and switch from a physical to virtual product and/or digital in any of its components and functions.
  • From being product change its mode to service.
  • To tend to its dematerialization or any of its functions and components.
  • Integrate functions, reducing the total number of materials and components.
  • Avoid unnecessary and useless features and components.
  • Generate a greater emotional bond with the user/consumer.
  • Have a reliable design or configuration with an appropriate lifespan (no planned obsolescence).
  • Use digital tools in design, modelling, prototyping, documentation, communication and presentation.
  • Use materials effectively in production, consumption, maintenance and end of life.
  • Minimize or avoid energy consumption during production, storage, transport and disposal.
  • Use efficient technologies and machineries which optimize the production process.
  • Provide information to the user about their materials, components and the modalities of its end of life and/or disposal.
  • Divide the structure into easily handled, separable and replaceable modular components.
  • Enable its updating (software and hardware) for its reuse and/or secondary use.
  • Allow its maintenance, repair and/or remanufacturing.
  • Be designed to facilitate its retrieval and recycling.
  • Take into account environmental issues such as biodiversity, emissions, renewable resources.
  • Take into account emotional, functional aspects and feelings of user/consumers as co-creators.
  • Consider changes in behaviours, attitudes, habits and lifestyles of society (trends).
  • Take into account the social component of workers and communities that are behind its development and implementation.
  • Consider in addition of needs and global features, needs and local features, so that the solutions adapt to each environment.
  • Enable their adaptability to cultural and physical changes in diverse environments.

It is worth highlighting that besides the traditional triad of sustainability (economic, social and environmental aspects), the users/consumers emotional aspects are relevant. These issues can be related with the development of successful sustainable products and services, in dematerialization, reliability, durability and virtualization through intangibility are possible, and must be addressed from the early stages of design with the appropriate methodologies. The study suggests that instead of less demand on design, more conscious design is expected in opposition to the mass-production of superfluous and unnecessary products and services.


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