Airbus Defence and Space

Airbus Defence and Space and eco-design

Environmental considerations: a natural reflex

Ecological design is an integral part of Airbus Defence and Space’s environment policy. It entails utilising various tools to help incorporate environmental factors as of the product design stage, in order to minimise their environmental and health impacts.

After proving its desire to take account of environmental aspects via a proactive ISO 14001 certification approach, Airbus Defence and Space created the Design For Environment (DFE) department, with a team dedicated to developing best practices for environmental management. With ecological design, or ‘eco-design’ as it is known, Airbus Defence and Space enjoys extra added value: an overall vision of the product lifecycle, from raw material extraction to final end-of-life disposal, through production, distribution and utilisation.

Eco-design: driven by regulatory demands or a vital skill?

“Eco-design cannot be a purely standards-driven approach and taking environmental considerations into account must become a natural reflex in order to stay ahead of regulatory constraints and customer demands,” explains Isabelle Rouchon, Head of DFE. “European regulations can be credited with having forced everyone to address this problem. We are a support function which looks beyond the regulations in order to focus on the final goal of creating products for which the environmental and health impacts have been considered right from the design stage.”

Regulations such as REACh have a direct and significant impact on manufacturing activities – as demonstrated by the success of the European Commission’s conferences on the subject, first organised in 2011.

Regulations such as REACh have a direct and significant impact on manufacturing activities – as demonstrated by the success of the European Commission’s conferences on the subject, first organised in 2011.

Faced with increasingly stringent and numerous regulatory requirements (REACh1, RoHS2, WEEE4, etc.) and customer pressure (the French Defence Procurement Agency, DGA, today and soon ESA), the DFE is behind the ramp-up in eco-design skills. This team has a number of roles:

  • To provide environmental expertise to the Programmes and Design Offices
  • To analyse the significant environmental impacts of the products through a Lifecycle Analysis
  • To develop tools for promoting eco-design
  • To support designers in making sustainable technological choices
  • To raise the awareness of all the stakeholders – from the Programme manager to the Design Office – of the methods and tools used to implement eco-design practices.

The DFE is thus responsible for activities relating to eco-design for the overall Environmental Management Programme at Airbus Defence and Space and contributes to the Environmental Management System’s continuous improvement process.

Airbus Defence and Space’s Design For Environment (DFE) team: (l to r) Maud Saint-Amand, Jonathan Ouziel and Isabelle Rouchon.

 

Airbus Defence and Space’s Design For Environment (DFE) team: (l to r) Maud Saint-Amand, Jonathan Ouziel and Isabelle Rouchon.

Product obsolescence – staying ahead of the game

“Another aspect to be considered, and an important one at that, is product obsolescence, which is exacerbated by successive environmental regulations”, says Maud Saint-Amand. “As our development lead-times are long, the choices made at the beginning of the programme can be called into question at the end of this same programme”.

To avoid this type of pitfall, the only solution is to anticipate regulatory constraints. “This is why we analyse the impact of new and future regulations in order to ensure the conformity of our products throughout their lifecycle. This is carried out together with the central Airbus Defence and Space Certifications and Environment team which is responsible for monitoring environmental regulations. Indeed, we ensure that this information is distributed to all the stakeholders in charge of on-going programmes and projects,” explains Isabelle.

Moreover there is, Maud stresses, “the need to create an internal network to maximise expansion of this know-how and these skills and so that clearly identified correspondents are in place in all departments and units.”

Analysing the lifecycle

To reduce negative environmental impacts throughout the product lifecycle, the DFE offers support in several different ways. This includes Lifecycle Analysis, which entails analysis of significant environmental impacts for the products designed and built by Airbus Defence and Space. This lifecycle analysis is the starting point of the eco-design process because, before attempting to reduce the environmental impacts of a product, it is necessary to be able to measure them.

The impacts of the products purchased by Airbus Defence and Space are measured by means of the Environmental Quality Index (EQI), an extremely practical tool created by the DFE. Using the same principle as the graduated Richter scale for earthquakes, the EQI measures the impact of a product, based on its product Safety Data Sheet or its Technical Data sheet, giving a rating from 0 to 9. The higher the rating, the greater the environmental impact. A warning is triggered if the EQI is 6 or higher. The designer remains in control of his or her choices, the aim not being to downgrade the quality or performance of the product concerned, but to consider the risk of obsolescence as of the design stage.

The lifecycle analysis and Environmental Quality Index tools are already used by Airbus Defence and Space personnel in France. A transverse working group is currently studying their deployment in Germany.

Airbus Defence and Space chose to introduce an Environmental Policy back in 2006.

 

Airbus Defence and Space chose to introduce an Environmental Policy back in 2006.

 

… and providing for end-of-life products

Isabelle says that DFE will continue to broaden its expertise: “Even if we have made a lot of progress upstream, our next goal is to improve in anticipating the end-of-life stage of our products. Recycling, sorting waste, dismantling, etc. – questions have to be answered and the DGA calls for tender already demand that our products be suitable for dismantling.”

100% of our new products will be eco-designed in 2020

Although there is no doubt as to the long-term profitability of a well-thought-out ecological design approach, a number of preconceived ideas nonetheless need to be overcome. Maud gives an example: “The belief that taking account of environmental factors must necessarily entail a cost. Yet in fact the resulting improvements to the processes can lead to savings in energy and equipment resources. Better still, when competing for a bid for customers who are think green, the ability to provide precise and objective arguments regarding the ecological qualities of our products will prove to be a key decision factor.”

ESA’s Clean Space initiative is designed to make it a benchmark space agency in terms of protection of the Earth and space environments. (© ESA)

ESA’s Clean Space initiative is designed to make it a benchmark space agency in terms of protection of the Earth and space environments. (© ESA)

Through this approach, Airbus Defence and Space can rightly claim to be on-target to achieve the AIRBUS Group goal of 100% of new products being designed ecologically by the 2020 time-frame.

1) REACh (Registration Evaluation Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals), adopted by the European Parliament in 2006, aims to guarantee that chemical substances bought, used and sold in the various industrial and commercial sectors are fully traceable, and regulates the use of those which are of the greatest ‘concern’ for both people and the environment.

2) The European RoHS (Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment) directive aims to limit the use of certain hazardous substances.

3) Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (electrical and electronic equipment waste with a very high carbon footprint).

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