Meaning of resource efficiency

In the industrial context, resources are designated as a means for producing goods and services. Resources can be divided into technical/economic resources (personnel, operating equipment, capital, knowledge) and into natural resources. Natural resources are:

  • Renewable and non-renewable primary raw materials
  • Energy resources (energy commodities, flowing resources, radiation energy)
  • Air
  • Water
  • Surface area (and soils with their agricultural and forestry utilisation)
  • Biodiversity (genetic diversity, diversity of species, diversity of ecological systems)
  • Ecosystem services including the environmental media sink function (water, land, air)

Natural resources: renewable raw materials, non-renewable raw materials, environmental media (images l to r) VDI ZRE/Kerstin Drechsler, Mark Huls/Fotolia, artistdesign_de/Fotolia)

Resource efficiency means the efficient utilisation of technical/economic and natural resources. According to VDI 4800 Sheet 1 it is defined as "the relationship between a specific benefit or result and the deployment of resources required to achieve this".

Benefit and outlay

Technical benefits are provided by functions. Functions are realised from product systems which are formed by goods, services or a combination thereof (so-called products-service systems or hybrid service bundles). The functional unit quantifies the functions of a product system in a solution-neutral manner. Quality, the service life or results of production or recycling processes represent some specific examples of benefits.

In order to achieve the highest possible level of resource efficiency during the development of product systems, products or processes, it is not specific solutions, in other words products or processes, which are the focus of examination but the functions or benefits which can be achieved through their implementation.

The technical/economic outlay for the achievement of a benefit consists of the scope of personnel, operating equipment and capital required for this purpose. The environmental-based outlay arises from the use of energy, raw materials and environmental media.

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