A reverse engineering methodology is presented for identifying environmentally conscious design guidelines for use in the conceptual stages of product design. Environmentally conscious principles and guidelines help designers improve environmental impacts of products by making better decisions during conceptual design stages when data for life cycle analysis (LCA) are sometimes scarce. The difficulty in using the current knowledge base of guidelines is that it is not exhaustive and conflicts are not well understood. In response, the authors propose a general method for expanding the current set of guidelines and for understanding potential environmental tradeoffs. The method helps designers extract environmentally conscious design guidelines from a set of functionally related products by combining reverse engineering with LCA. The guidelines and LCA results can then be used to inform subsequent design cycles without repeating the process. Although in environmentally conscious design, reverse engineering is commonly applied to studies of disassembly and recyclability, the methodology and case study herein show how reverse engineering can be applied to the utilization stage of a product’s life cycle as well. The method is applied to an example of electric kettles to demonstrate its utility for uncovering new design guidelines.

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