Designing the beginning with the end in view

Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, aeroplane manufacturers designed a new product essentially because they could. They were pretty sure it would fly, but would it fly well and safely? When it proved it could fly, they started selling it, and began fixing all the fixable things they found that were wrong with it.

My, how things have changed. 

Now, on its maiden flight, the new aircraft is expected to perform to the specification against which hundreds have already been sold.

But much more is going on than that, as I learned recently on a visit to Bombardier at Montreal.

Now an aircraft is “designed for the environment”, on the grounds that decisions at the design stage “will affect the planet for 20-30 years”, as Bombardier puts it. 

This is not entirely an altruistic aim, although clearly a responsible one. 

Bombardier aims to ensure that “aviation does not become socially undesirable”, so that aeroplanes keep selling. Meanwhile, as the company points out, “aircraft that are recognised as environmentally friendly will be more highly valued”.

So much for the aeroplane’s life. But what of its death?

Bombardier has provided a CRJ100 approaching the end of its life to the Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal – specifically to its Research Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services. This academic institution will strip down the machine and assess, in minute detail, its recyclability. What they find, says Bombardier, will become part of the company’s design and manufacturing considerations for the future.

As the Ecole’s Prof Rejean Samson says: “We can’t afford to make mistakes any more. The stakes are too high. We’re facing depletion of natural resources and dramatic climate change. Sustainable development is the only way to slow these trends, and the life-cycle assessment approach is so far the best tool to make wise investment decisions for the future.”


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One Response to Designing the beginning with the end in view

  1. keith peers 31 January, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    great reading.

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