Published in Proceedings of the 2004 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition: Salt Lake City, UT, June 1, 2004. 10 pages. Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education. Publisher website: American Society for Engineering Education.
NOTE: At the time of publication, the author Trevor Harding was not yet affiliated with Cal Poly.
The design and production of engineering products that have a reduced impact on the environment and human health has increasingly become a strategic goal of corporations. Consequently, starting engineers will need to be educated in green design techniques. One method that is particularly attractive to engineers is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is an objective approach to evaluating the environmental burden of a product, process or activity by identifying and quantifying material and energy usage and waste outputs at every life stage. LCA involves three steps: identification of scope of analysis, life cycle inventory, and impact analysis. Such an approach has two attractive features for engineers. First, it is a rational and quantitative process that is easily appreciated by engineers. Second, because it examines all stages of the life cycle, it allows engineers to easily identify what design or process improvements will lead to the greatest reduction in environmental impact.
The present paper will describe a laboratory experience used in a senior level materials and process selection design course developed by the author. The project involves conducting a LCA analysis on a telephone as part of a redesign of the phone to reduce its environmental impact. Students begin the project by dismantling the phone and taking inventory of the materials contained within the phone. This information is used to determine the energy consumed in production of the phone. Information is also provided regarding energy consumption in the distribution, use and disposal of the phone. Students are then asked to examine a variety of different design and process changes and determine the relative change in environmental impact resulting from these changes. The paper will discuss the LCA approach (including streamlined LCA), details of the laboratory project, student outcomes and suggestions for improving the project.
Materials Science and Engineering