FEIT Research Project Database

New design approaches for environmentally sustainable engineering design

Project Leader: Katja Holtta-Otto
Collaborators: Telstra Creator Space Janet McGaw (Architectural Design and Practice)
Primary Contact: Katja Holtta-Otto (katja.holttaotto@unimelb.edu.au)
Keywords: biopolymers; Circular Economy; life cycle assessment; recycling
Disciplines: Mechanical Engineering

Achieving sustainability goals requires efforts on all fronts. We have multiple related subprojects in this area:

Circular materials for early prototyping. In this project, we are looking at the early prototyping phase of product development and aim to eliminate the commonly used non-recyclable materials like particle board, polystyrene foam and foam core. Other materials, including ones based on cellulose and mycelium, have been piloted in other application areas but nothing has been yet developed or adapted for prototyping and making purposes. This project would benchmark and develop novel sustainable, e.g. biobased materials, analyse their environmental footprint as well as machinability and other material properties. This work can be done in collaboration with the Telstra Creator Space and the maker space in the School of Design.

Design guidelines for designing for multiple product lifecycles. Ideally a product and its components and materials are not obsolete at the end of the product life, but they could be reused as is or refurbished to be used again in the same high value application rather than only recycled. The field is developing rapidly, but we lack evidence-based strategies to incorporate these into standard practices of engineering. This project builds on product platform design and design for sustainability research.

User centred design and user behaviour in incorporating new sustainable practices in engineering. Products are designed by teams of people to be used by other people. Thus, understanding the human side is essential in all of design. This project supports the sustainability efforts by studying and identifying enables and barriers for sustainable design and developing guidelines to overcome the identified barriers. This research could be done in collaboration with behavioural psychologist, for example.