Sustainable Design by Fabric Impact Assessment

Materials selection usually determines manufacturing processes in the textile and clothing industry. Different production steps affect the sustainability performance of a factory. As such, materials selection plays a major role in the sustainable development of the industry.

A design strategy based on Life Cycle Assessment intervention encourages designers to consider a product’s sustainability properties during the product design stage. This project facilitates an advance in evaluating a product’s sustainability properties by estimating, at the product's design and development stage, the environmental, human and animal impacts of its production processes based on selections of material and production region. This approach helps to ensure sustainable product development and takes the whole product lifecycle into account.

Comprehensive Data

In its first phase, the developed model focuses on cotton and major cotton blended fabrics, as they make up a significant proportion of textile products. The project team has reviewed a wide range of relevant academic publications, government and NGO reports, LCA databases, company reports and news reports covering different fabric manufacturing processes: from agricultural production, to fabric finishing and finally to recycling.

Formulas were developed from the data extracted and assessed from the secondary sources in order to unify the contributions from the different sources. An expert panel comprising senior academics, NGO experts and industry specialists was formed to determine the weightings of 15 factors and 6 manufacturing processes.

A User-friendly Programme

The system, which incorporates a massive amount of raw data, has a straightforward interface. Users simply input the selected material and production regions of each manufacturing process to generate a sustainability report automatically.

The software encourages users to upload their frontline information and new techniques into the model database, which will progressively enhance the model's capacity and performance. Furthermore, the software helps foster sustainable manufacturing processes starting from the product design stage. It is able to assist relevant parties in making sustainable choices when designing their products. This kind of design intervention has the potential to educate and actually drive the whole industry towards improved green practices.

Project video of Sustainable Production by Fabric Impact Assessment
The project won a silver medal in the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva in April 2018

Project Coordinator: Dr Yao Lei
Research Institution: The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel