The Eco Audit Tool

The Eco Audit Tool helps to teach key concepts in eco design and aids project work to analyze the environmental impact of products.

The user inputs information about product composition, usage, and transportation. This is combined with eco property data on the materials and processes used to make the product to estimate energy usage and CO2 output at each stage in the product life cycle and to identify environmental risks. Reports can be exported into a range of other applications for further analysis.

Eco Audit Tool graphs showing end of life phase

The dynamic Eco Summary chart allows instant comparison of environmental impact for multiple products

The tool allows the user to identify which life phase (or phases) dominate the product's environmental impact. This is a valuable first step in considering how to reduce that impact. It also helps students to grasp ideas that are essential to rational eco design—for example, the need to analyze the full life cycle of a product, and to consider 'hidden' environmental costs such as the energy or CO2 'embodied' in producing a raw material. Warnings about 'critical materials' or restricted substances also highlight broader sustainability considerations when selecting a material. The Tool provides a quick and interesting way to investigate 'what if' scenarios—for example, how would environmental impact change if a component was made from a different material?

Sample resource: download a lecture unit covering Eco Audit as part of the CES EduPack information pack 

  Eco Audit Tool Strategies for reducing environmental impact

Guidance notes provide recommendations for reducing environmental impact

The Enhanced Eco Audit Tool

For higher level teaching and research, the Enhanced Eco Audit Tool, which comes with the CES EduPack Eco Design Edition, adds consideration of the following:

  • secondary machining processes
  • joining & finishing processes
  • manufacturing waste
  • warnings about the presence of restricted substances
  • probability of end-of-life material recovery.

It is also possible to calculate cost for the different life cycle phases, helping students to think about both environmental and economic factors.

The Eco Design Edition comes with extended Eco Property data for over 3,750 materials. This allows CES EduPack's powerful selection and analysis software to be used in projects to investigate and compare the environmental impact of materials and processes. The Enhanced Eco Audit Tool can be used as part of a 2-step process in which the student first analyzes a product to identify the key drivers of its environmental impact and then moves on to make materials selections that modify that impact.

More on the CES EduPack for Eco Design 

Case Study: The Space Heater

A space heater will be manufacturered using a number of different primary and secondary processes, together with several joining and finishing processes. These are quick and easy to enter into the Enhanced Eco Audit Tool's Product Defintions, using drop-down boxes (illustrated, below).

Enhanced Eco Audit Tool

Above: Drop down menus make it quick and easy to select appropriate
Primary and Secondary processes in the Enhanced Eco Audit Tool

The Eco Audit Tool report breaks down the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the space heater into key lifecycle stages, as well as providing a detailed breakdown of the contribution from each component and process (illustrated, below). In this way, the Enhanced Eco Audit Tool enables the more detailed analysis of the product lifecycle required in advanced teaching and the study of eco design and sustainability-related topics.

The manufacturing report for the space heater, from the Enhanced Eco Audit Tool

Above: The report from the Enhanced Eco Audit Tool contains a detailed
breakdown of the environmental input of every component and process.

Further information

The Project file for this example is available with the Eco Design and Sustainability and Built Environment Editions. Further project files are also available on the teaching resource website.

The CES EduPack information pack includes access to a recorded seminar on this topic and two white papers of particular relevance for eco design.

  • Recorded seminar—'Teaching Sustainable Engineering and Eco Design' with Prof Mike Ashby
  • White paper—'The CES EduPack Eco Audit Tool—A White Paper', M.F. Ashby, N. Ball, C. Bream, Updated November 2011. Details this new tool for teaching eco design concepts, including case studies of its use.
  • White paper—'CES EduPack for Eco Design—A White Paper', M.F. Ashby, A. Miller, F. Rutter, U.G.K. Wegst, Version 5, November 2011 (first published 2005 as The CES Eco Selector—Background Reading) . Provides information on the eco property data available with CES EduPack and case studies showing how it can be applied in teaching.

Download the information pack