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PhD Thesis Defense: Tejaswini Chatty

May

03

Wednesday
10:00am - 12:00pm ET

The Design Loft (ECSC 007)/Online

For info on how to attend via videoconference, email tejaswini.chatty.th@dartmouth.edu.

"Enabling the Integration of Sustainable Design Methodological Frameworks and Computational Life Cycle Assessment Tools into Industry Product Development Practice"

Abstract

Environmental sustainability has gained critical importance in product development (PD) due to increased regulation, market competition, and consumer awareness, leading companies to set ambitious climate targets. To meet these goals, PD practitioners (engineers and designers) are often left to adapt their practices to reduce the impacts of the products they manufacture. Literature review and interviews with practitioners show that they highly valued using quantitative life cycle assessment (LCA) results to inform decision making.

LCA is a technique to measure the environmental impacts across various stages of a product life cycle. Existing LCA software tools, however, are designed for dedicated experts to use at the end of PD using detailed product information. This creates the "ecodesign paradox," a tension between opportunity for change in the early-stages of PD and availability of data in later stages to make reliable decisions. Further, my research identified that novice users of LCA face additional barriers including: cumbersome user interfaces, unfamiliar terminology, and complicated information visualization. To address these challenges, I developed a tool called EcoSketch for use during early-stage PD by novice users.

Practitioners, however, also struggle with translating environmental impact information into actionable design decisions. Hence, I co-created methodological frameworks of sustainable design strategies with industry partners: Synapse Product Development Inc. and Stanley Black and Decker Inc. Despite contextual differences, a key commonality was that practitioners at both firms sought "structured" and "data-driven" processes for sustainable design. Through multiple, extended internships, I also identified important drivers and barriers to sustainable design integration.

Finally, my research demonstrates that co-creation improves receptivity, long-term adoption, and produces tangible improvements to sustainable outcomes in practice. In summary, my research pursues two key pathways to enable sustainable design integration:

  1. Developing human-centered life cycle assessment (LCA) tools that are designed for decision-making during the early stages of PD.
  2. Creating methodological frameworks to support the application of appropriate sustainable design strategies in PD practice.

This thesis elaborates on my proposed coupling of robust frameworks with human-centered LCA tools, which I argue together comprise a transformative solution for industry professionals to effectively integrate sustainability considerations in their product development practices.

Thesis Committee

  • Prof. Elizabeth Murnane (chair)
  • Prof. Geoffrey Parker
  • Prof. Jeremy Faludi (external)
  • Prof. Rafe Steinhauer

Contact

For more information, contact Theresa Fuller at theresa.d.fuller@dartmouth.edu.