The very first design phase offers the greatest opportunities to influence the impact that a product will have on the environment during its lifetime and to ensure that it is as efficient as possible in its use of resources. The objective of the project is to develop design method, in close collaboration with the participating companies, that can provide the support that designers and construction engineers need.

“It’s clear that increasing demands are being placed on design and construction: customer requirements, materials requirements, design, service and maintenance, while products are becoming increasingly complex. The number of factors that construction engineers and designers must take into consideration is increasing, and this is where we can make a difference,” says Tomohiko Sakao, researcher at Linköping University, and leader of one of the seven Mistra REES projects.

“Our objective is to provide flexible, easy support suitable for companies of different sizes. We also want to bridge the divide between the design of products and the design of services.”

Researchers in the project have so far carried out a literature review and drawn up an inventory and documented the methods that are used in the industry, and they have interviewed the companies that are participating in Mistra REES. In association with the interviews, they have requested requirements specifications – how should the support be provided in order to gain true benefit.
Methods to support the efficient use of resources are already commercially available, but these are seldom used.

“We have identified methods and requirements, but now we need our partners to confirm that we are on the right track, before we continue to the next phase,” says Tomohiko Sakao.

Differences in support

He continues: “It must be remembered that our results so far are preliminary, but we can already see that there are large differences between small and large companies. A large company with many people and levels involved in the design process can gain a great deal by increasing efficiency by, say, 5%. In a small company, in contrast, there may be only one or two people working with design, and in this case another form of support is required.”

A further clear trend he can see is that management interest for environmental and resource-management issues has increased greatly in the companies during the past year. This means that engagement in the design departments has also increased.

“This is something that will be significant for us in the next stage.”

Identifying methods

Doctoral student Sara Nilsson at work at Linköping University. 

Photo credit: Thor Balkhed