#055 / 2004

Eco-selection extra

In August 2004, Cambridge-based (UK) Granta Design added ecological-impact criteria to its existing CES4 material and process selection database. For those not familiar with Granta's products, CES4 comprises technical profiles - mechanical, thermal, electrical, optical, etc. - of 3,000 materials and 250 processes. The new EcoSelector adds an additional 27 material eco-properties, including geo-economics, production energy, emmissions, processing energy, toxicity and recycling.

The software is the result of five years' development, led by Professor Mike Ashby at Granta Design and Cambridge University. According to Professor Ashby, "Current practice is to use life-cycle assessment techniques to analyze the eco-impact of products once they are in service. But it is clearly better to design-in the qualities we seek from the start rather than searching for ways to introduce them into a product that is already in service. This is the goal of eco-design, and it is this goal that the EcoSelector helps to achieve." (Ashby's innovative book Materials and Design is reviewed elswhere in furniturelink.)

Using the CES software furniture, designers will be able to find answers to these questions:

  • How can we select materials to minimize a product's damage to the environment?
  • How can we get a handle on eco-data for a material if it has never been directly measured?
  • How can corporate environmental policy guide design, without sacrificing product performance or raising cost?

CES EcoSelector answers these questions through its built-in database and methodologies that analyze and trade off eco-cost, financial cost and technical performance as a function of material choice. State-of-the-art methods of materials and process selection, leading eco-data sources and current concepts in life-cycle analysis work together to provide targetted and accurate results.


The above chart shows an example of how data is mapped by the software (1). (The quasi three-dimensional format of these graphs has spawned a new term—Ashby plots.) The X-axis is the ratio between density (weight) and bending stiffness; the Y-axis is the ratio between the amount of energy used in the production of the material and bending stiffness. The irony for readers of Ashby's Material and Design, who have noted its virtual exclusion of wood fibre materials, is that solid wood and plywood are clearly shown to have major eco-advantages.

EcoSelector is available in PC or Web editions. Update 2019: for more information on this software, furniturelink recommends you read CES Selector – The Missing Link for Optimal Product Design by Charlie Bream.

(1) Chart data courtesy of Granta Design.

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