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Keywords:

  • early design stages;
  • eco-design;
  • estimations;
  • industrial ecology;
  • life cycle assessment (LCA);
  • product development

Summary

Many authors have agreed on the interest of considering environmental concerns in the early stages of product development. However, most eco-design tools are based on life cycle assessment principles and require a model to give information about the product's environmental performance. This modeling can have negative effects on team performance and on the potential for innovation, not to mention on the project's duration. Additionally, the model requires information that is not available in the early design stages. This article analyzes the potential of inferring conclusions about the life cycle stages with the highest impact by using similar products. From a database of previous products, environmental profile estimations are carried out, that is, the assessments of the contribution of each life cycle stage to the total impact and the variability of this measure. It is then possible to discard—or ensure consideration of—life cycle stages. Furthermore, the level of the conclusions is assessed on a five-point scale. The proposed approach is applied to four case studies with different levels of abstraction and the relevance of the conclusions is assessed. The article resolves the problems regarding potential for estimating the distribution of the environmental impacts along the life cycle.