Circular Challenge

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A refrigerator has become a low involvement product because it’s self-evident that you have one at home. We expect it to work but most people don’t take proper care of their machine.

Three main challenges can be identified:
1. Poor maintenance (People should clean the back and inside for proper functioning)
2. Not used optimal (Frequently opened, warm food, location of food, over stock, temp settings, … )
3. Decreasing lifetime while the optimal replacement time is not even met now. (Emotionally obsolete or lack of convenient repair/upgrade options?)

In the Netherlands, people move seven times in their life, which is about once every ten years on average.  But the average doesn’t count because people move more often when they are young. If we want refrigerators to last 20 years they should adapt to the new home and probably the new household (expanded family, children moved out, divorce, … )

Design Goal

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The design goal is a circular Refrigerator. In an article about product life extension, Bakker et al., 2014 argue that refrigerators should be used for 20 years instead of 14. This project will show how this can be made possible through design or service. Design strategies from the book Products that last, 2014 will be explored to figure out future possibilities.
The focus will be on the life span of  the product/components/materials and ultimately their reuse. The preservation of food (countering food waste) and energy efficiency is the second focus.

Project scope
The result will be a redesign of a product that is in the mature life cycle stage. The common, two door refrigerator that can be found in most households. (About half of the Dutch households have a two door standalone refrigerator, priced around €650)
The Smart/Connected fridge won’t be taken into account because that would be less suitable to showcase the ‘Products that last’ theory that I wan’t to use; Small changes that will help normal product to last.

Six different circular design strategies will be applied to study what a circular refrigerator could be:

  1. Design for product attachment and trust is aimed at countering emotional obsolescence by creating products that will be loved, liked or trusted longer; for example the Patek Philippe watch.
  2. Design for product durability is aimed at countering functional obsolescence by developing products that can take wear and tear; for example the Miele washing machine.
  3. Design for standardisation and compatibility is aimed at countering systemic obsolescence by creating products with parts that fit other products as well; for example the Vitsoe wall shelving.
  4. Design for ease of maintenance and repair is aimed at countering functional obsolescence by enabling products to be maintained in tip-top condition; for example the Rolls Royce jet engine and the Philips pay-per-lux solution.
  5. Design for upgradability and adaptability is aimed at countering systemic obsolescence by allowing for future expansion and modification; for example the Kitchen Aid mixer.
  6. Design for disassembly and reassembly is aimed at countering systemic obsolescence by ensuring product parts can be separated and reassembled easily. For example the Auronde bed by Auping that has exchangeable parts so that a single bed can become a double bed. (other example than in the guardian)

Summary of the strategies from:


Bakker, C., Wang, F., Huisman, J., & den Hollander, M. (2014). Products that go round: exploring product life extension through design. Journal Of Cleaner Production, 69, 10-16. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.01.028