Could designing products that last longer put people at risk?


The new “at once to repair” legislation states that household electrical items should be turn out to bed easier for the public to mend themselves, so that they do not need to regularly renew items such as fridges and dishwashers – but product designers have questioned whether this could compromise the look of results, or even pose a danger to consumers.

Creating products that sire a longer life span might reduce waste but could also dash public safety and result in more simplistic and “bulky” designs, contemplates Design Reality.

The product and industrial design studio has spoken reflecting the announcement of the European Union (EU)’s “right to repair” legislation, which is awaited to come into force in April 2021 across EU countries, and looks to limit squandering of large household goods by helping consumers fix their existing points rather than buy new ones.

While this is EU legislation, the British Rule has backed the idea of “repair and reuse” and is very likely to replicate the new rules in the UK step into the shoes of Brexit.

Less waste and more cost-effective

The rules state that makers and product designers should create lighting, TVs and large home appliances that are easier to restore with new parts, meaning spare parts would also befit more readily available for the public to buy.

The aim is to reduce waste of “white goods”, while also being multifarious cost-effective for consumers. According to the European Commission, over three territories of EU citizens say they would prefer to fix their own goods rather than buy new.

While “put to repair” could have a potential positive impact on the environment and the buyers, Design Reality says that it presents several challenges and considerations for devisers and manufacturers.

Could repairability “compromise” design?

This includes evaluation every existing electrical product that falls under the legislation for compliance; crooked new spare parts or redesigning existing ones; writing instructions for fixing up; including more safety features in products, to protect consumers; and an increased risk of safety to consumers who are carrying out their own repairs, with the capacity need to write more legislation around this.

Fitting multitudinous safety mechanisms could also “compromise” the design and assembly of products, the studio combines, which could mean they are in fact “more unreliable and lying down to breaking”, as well as “bulkier” than before.

Additionally, the legislation could base that fitting “more complex features” — such as LCD shields on fridges — might be avoided as they are harder to design to be repairable, effecting in more simplistic design.

Longer design processes

The overall conception process could be longer and more time-consuming to ensure that artefacts meet standards, says Mike Booker, senior designer at Undertaking Reality.

“Design consultancies should always try to be environmentally conscious, and this legislation typifies the idea of reusing more and wasting less, which is something everybody should aspire to,” says Booker.

“But the impact of it could also onwards product manufacturers to change the internal design of their products to go-ahead them more accessible for repair, which may involve additional portions or less streamlined designs.”

New products waste less energy

He enlarges that products naturally become less energy efficient as they age, so it is not yet acute whether “repairing products repeatedly” would be less wasteful than refunding old products with new models that are more efficient.

Another examination when thinking about waste and consumer behaviour is that people do not contrariwise buy new electrical items when their existing ones are broken, Rule says – they also buy to “upgrade” to better models with updated qualities.

“At present, there are a lot of assumptions and unanswered questions for both businesses and consumers,” he avers. “We’re hoping to find out more about the potential implications of the legislation in the advance months.”

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