Carnegie Mellon Engineering

Green Design Institute Overview

The Green Design Institute is a major interdisciplinary research effort to make an impact on environmental quality through green design. The central idea of the institute is to form partnerships with companies, government agencies, and foundations to develop pioneering design, management, manufacturing, and regulatory processes that can improve environmental quality and product quality while enhancing economic development.

The institute has roots in two existing Carnegie Mellon centers: The Engineering Design Research Center, an internationally recognized NSF center of excellence established in 1986 to support more efficient and cost-effective designs in industry; The Environmental Institute, a university-wide organization bringing together faculty, research staff, and students to work on environmental and educational activities.


Research Objectives

The Green Design research programs aim to reduce environmental damage by:

  • Lowering environmental discharges

  • Minimizing the use of non-renewable resources

  • Reducing the use of renewable resources to sustainable levels

Our research is centered on four strategic thrusts, as described below:

  • Environmental Management—How should we manage environmental impacts of business and society? Environmental management encompasses such issues as product end-of-life options, full cost accounting, corporate environmental responsibility, and assessment of environmental performance.

  • Energy and the Environment—Of growing concern to business and government is the efficient use of resources for energy generation and use. Our research examines the broader impacts of various energy choices such as indirect impacts of alternative automotive fuels, and costs of air pollution from electricity generation.

  • Sustainable Infrastructure—Our built environment contributes significantly to environmental damages yet has not been the focus of concern or regulation. We consider how infrastructure systems, such as water delivery, electricity grids, telecommunications networks, or roadways, influence materials and energy consumption, waste generation, and product development.

  • Life Cycle Assessment—Life cycle assessment is a tool to analyze the impacts of a process or product over the entire life cycle from raw materials extraction, parts manufacturing, use, and end-of-life . Much of our LCA work utilizes our free, internet-based economic input-output life cycle assessment tool.