Electronic Product Design

Ecological Design

If good design qualifies as green - we're in

Carbon footprints, ecology and sustainability are ideologies that may or may not fit with your own beliefs. Such principles might appear to be at odds with the cut and thrust of profit driven business.

At Hawkshead, we do not offer predictions on the future of the world or subscribe to some of the hyped-up headlines. We do think that the challenge to produce more efficient and well engineered products is a long standing part of any professional design process.

Eco-friendly does not have to cost

There is plenty in the media about how much money you could save by taking your TV out of standby and turning it off. Much of the data is way out of date because TV manufacturers have had to conform to tight power saving regulations for many years now.

What makes us mad is that we have been doing the same kind of power saving strategies since long before any regulations came into play. Does it make sense to leave high powered (hot) parts in operation when the product is not in use? We think not.

If the added feature does not push the cost over the target price, you have a product with an environmental benefit. What is more, you have a customer who sees you as responsible whilst extending product life into the bargain. There is no loser here - it's just a little thought at the design stage.

(PS We still recommend that you turn your TV off)

Green obscene

Power lines - ecological designPylons - electricity pylons - great big structures with wires in groups or multiples of three. This is how electricity is passed around most countries in the world. (Yes, it goes below ground too but then you can't see it).

This grouping of 3 is a natural result of 3-phase electricity, which is a highly effective way of distributing power to the point where it is used. Factories and large consumers have 3-phase electricity available within the building. Homes and small users have single phase electricity, which is derived by 'sharing' the three phases around groups of properties.

When it 3-phase is used for some applications it remains efficient and trouble free. Some factory applications are not as benign but worse still are the majority of homes. All those homes add up to make very large 3-phase users with horrible appliances.

What is it so bad at home? Let's see... do you have any (or more than one) of the following:

  • Washing machine
  • Microwave
  • TV
  • DVD
  • Hi Fi System
  • Games console
  • Computer (laptop... very bad, or desk top... sometimes not so bad)

Most of these devices have a power supply structure that is not at all benign. The result of this is a form of power rush hour, where all the demand happens at once. In simple terms they draw 20 times their power requirement but only do it for 1/20th of their time. It would not be so bad if there was a semblance of order but all the devices in your house do it at the same time. Worse still next door's devices and the neighbours' and everywhere else are doing the same thing at precisely the same time.

This all adds up to a problem multiplied by a very large number of devices. To ignore the so called green issue is not only backward engineering it is obscene. Although rare, it has been known for part of the 3-phase distribution network in USA to literally burn out.

There is a technique to clear this problem and add user benefits too. The Hawkshead mentality has been applying such strategies since 1997... back then it seemed sensible but apparently it was at least 10 years ahead of the mainstream. Judging by current progress, we may be more than 10 years ahead of the game.

Eco Office

It would be impossible to leave a page on eco commitment and benefit without mentioning the office.

In similar fashion to pragmatic design, the office can also be viewed. It is by definition eco friendly. From a business perspective it is light, dry and airy but well insulated and easy to heat via a biomass boiler. So are the criteria those of an ecological maniac or a hard headed business? We would suggest that there is no choice required - ecological benefits can be offered alongside those of more conventional business.

For more details on the building and the resources behind it, please see: Mount Pleasant Eco Park.


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Hawkshead Designs Ltd
Unit 4 Penrose House
Treleigh Industrial Estate
TR16 4DE

T: 01209 216 878

E: info@hawksheaddesigns.co.uk

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