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Sustainability Makes for Good Design

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warren@fourward.com
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Hydrovolts
warren@fourward.com   7/18/2012 12:52:48 PM
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This has always been my dream.  Capture the energy from a river or a stream for household independence.  I certainly will pay attention to Hydrovolts to see how they progress.  I would even like to see if they could use another engineer on this project.  But I don't think it is so important where it is made.  If you do it right, and have the inspiration to think it globally, it might be designed to be made in any country with a minimum of skill.

The other interest of mine is power from the waves.  Surely there is money to be made from harnessing it properly.  And again, there are a lot of poor countries with coast lines.  What a boon to those economies either of these technologies could be.  Plus the infrastructure that would have to be built and maintained.  It is mind boggling!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Hydrovolts
Ann R. Thryft   7/23/2012 12:05:31 PM
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Warren do you happen to know what the current state is of technology for wave energy-harvesting efforts?

 

warren@fourward.com
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Re: Hydrovolts
warren@fourward.com   7/23/2012 2:32:25 PM
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I am no expert or novice.  I just notice things that interest me from an engineering standpoint .  If you look at http://ocsenergy.anl.gov/guide/wave/index.cfm there is an intersting rundown on methods and potentials.  But I haven't seen any off the coasts I go by.  But I wish I could, although, as a former surfer, I might not be so happy hanging 10 with half a gigawatt!

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Hydrovolts
Beth Stackpole   7/24/2012 7:43:11 AM
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@Ann: I think the wave energy harvesting effort is still pretty nascent, with a handful of companies like HydroVolt experimenting with technology and trying to develop a commercial market. Pretty cool stuff.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Hydrovolts
Ann R. Thryft   7/24/2012 1:10:19 PM
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Drat--wave-energy harvesting efforts have been going on a long time. I wonder what the holdup is? In general, though, thanks for this article. These design-for-sustainability efforts are really encouraging. I agree it will require a lot more than engineers' willingness to move from design-for-throwaway to design-for-long-life-and-sustainability. That will take a major shift in thinking, habits, and rewards.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Hydrovolts
Beth Stackpole   7/25/2012 8:24:41 AM
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Ann, you raise a good point about the rewards. Until management mandates and places value on sustainability as a core mission and design goal, it won't matter if an individual engineer has bought off on the practice. Design for long life might require design decisions that are not in keeping with organizations' focus on cost cutting, for example, or other marketing goals. Therefore, there needs to be top-down support across the organizational culture, not just a grass roots passion.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Hydrovolts
Ann R. Thryft   7/25/2012 11:49:29 AM
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Beth, I agree. I also meant larger societal rewards. For instance, our current manufacturing culture of throwaway products manufactured non-sustainably of non-sustainable materials has the short-term reward of relatively low prices. The culture has decided that low price is the most important reward. So it costs more to buy products made sustainably from sustainable materials because the infrastructure is not set up to optimize those materials' production, sourcing, manufacturing, selling, and distribution processes to the main reward of low price. Yet we're getting a a different set of rewards from their sustainability. It might be possible to get both if our systems and infrastructure were optimized for sustainability.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Hydrovolts
Beth Stackpole   7/25/2012 1:04:49 PM
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Excellent point. And hopefully that will happen over time.

NadineJ
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back to the basics
NadineJ   7/18/2012 1:44:24 PM
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I think sustainable design starts with thinking things through.  We learn that, in theory, in design school but it's rarely put into practice.  Our disposable economy has been around for almost a century.  It's no wonder that sustainable design has had a difficult time being accepted in the mainstream until now.

It's good to see more tools to help designer/engineers today get back to the basics of thinking things through and creating sustainable design.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: back to the basics
Beth Stackpole   7/18/2012 2:45:47 PM
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Somehow we need to bridge the thinking and address the disposable society mentality with a sustainable bend to our design tactics. I do think more and more of that is starting to filter into engineers' mind sets.

ricardo
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Re: back to the basics
ricardo   7/19/2012 5:45:32 PM
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> Somehow we need to bridge the thinking and address the disposable society mentality

I doubt if this can be done via improved engineering tools.  The push must come from the customer, the evil marketing dept.  To change these evildoers might require serious legislation. eg Mandated Warranty and Cost Effective (to the customer) Service support for all electronic, white goods and automatic product for at least 10 yrs.

This might reduce the number of 'designed by monkeys' products which are really 'specified to ridiculous timescales by monkeys' products.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: back to the basics
Beth Stackpole   7/20/2012 8:01:40 AM
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@Richardo: I agree that improved design tools aren't enough to ensure a more sustainable mentality when it comes to design, but they can certainly help and ensure the engineer has the data and tools they need to make key decisions along the way. But you're right in pointing out that the real challenge lies within the organizational culture and the vision from top management. Without that, any kind of sustainbility effort is doomed.

tekochip
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Re: back to the basics
tekochip   7/23/2012 12:00:25 PM
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I think so much of it falls on the head of the consumer.  Consumer's have been conditioned to believe that their station in society is measured by having the latest, trendy gadget.  Certainly, it's not true of every consumer, nor is it true that every consumer device is designed to fall apart after a couple of years.  I have a cell phone that's five years old (I keep it in my pocket so no one can see it), and except for a little chipped fake chrome, the device is still holding up.
 
Sustainability is an important attribute to every design and is typically specified in the product requirement.  Why buy memory that can withstand a million cycles if the product will only be in the field long enough for a thousand cycles?  I have a friend of mine that has a WWII war bird.  He says one of the issues with his aircraft is that nothing on it was designed to last more than a couple of years for sad, but obvious reasons.  The aircraft simply wasn't specified beyond that lifetime.


Greg M. Jung
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Sustainability - Future Trends
Greg M. Jung   7/22/2012 1:22:24 PM
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I'm seeng where design for sustainability is becoming more and more of a factor in product development and design and I expect this trend to grow.  To penetrate the European market, products currently have to meet EU RoHS requirements.  Also, some domestic states like California are now starting to have their own RoHS regulations.  Whatever side you are on, this will continue to be a growing design consideration in the future.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Sustainability - Future Trends
Beth Stackpole   7/23/2012 8:54:16 AM
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@Greg: I agree with you, Greg. I think RoHS and some of the other compliance directives are leading the push as are customer requirements for more sustainable products, be in the automotive space or elsewhere. I think there are a variety of different flavors and angles to sustainability in terms of design work, but they will all be a factor.

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