A utility theory-based approach to reducing raw material usage in non-adjustable artifacts, tasks, and environments

In order to accommodate the desired percentage of the target users of a product, decisions must be made to ensure that the design satisfies performance requirements such as user safety, comfort, and ease of use. The marketing concept of “utility theory” is one approach to quantifying the effects of design decisions. It is leveraged in this study to develop a design evaluation approach that considers: a) factors that may be either design-related (design specifications) or user-related (relevant body dimensions) and b) the raw material investment in the design. Based on data collected during a usage behavior study involving doorways of numerous sizes, a conditional logit model was developed to predict the utility of a doorway as a function of its size and the user’s stature and shoulder breadth. Next, an eco-design parameter was incorporated into the model as a penalty based on raw material usage. This approach was found to be useful in studying frequently encountered tradeoffs in decisions that could potentially increase product sustainability but could also reduce the utility of the product to the user.