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An Introduction to Life Cycle Analysis / Assessment (LCA). Created by Dr. Bert Bras Modified by Felipe Román. Learning Objectives. Get acquainted with LCA Understand how to conceptually apply the main steps of LCA Understand some of the difficulties and/or limitations of each LCA step.

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an introduction to life cycle analysis assessment lca

An Introduction to Life Cycle Analysis / Assessment (LCA)

Created by Dr. Bert BrasModified by Felipe Román

learning objectives
Learning Objectives
  • Get acquainted with LCA
  • Understand how to conceptually apply the main steps of LCA
  • Understand some of the difficulties and/or limitations of each LCA step
life cycle analysis lca
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)

LCA is a method that considers energy and raw material consumption, different types of emissionsand other important factors related to a specific product’s entire life cycle from an environmental point of view.

lca brief history
LCA Brief History
  • Started in the early 1970s to investigate energy requirements of different processes
  • Emissions and raw materials were considered later
  • Numerous variants of LCA “methods” were developed and/or investigated initially
  • A widely accepted series of guidelines and definitions was published by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC)
  • Today IS0 14040-14043 is considered the LCA standard
lca main steps
LCA Main Steps

Step 1: Goal Definition & Scope (ISO 14040)

Step 2: Inventory Analysis (ISO 14041)

Step 3: Impact Assessment (ISO 14042)

Step 4: Improvement Assessment / Interpretation (ISO 14043)

domestic coffee maker example
Domestic Coffee Maker Example

Source: http://home.howstuffworks.com/coffee-maker.htm

step 1 goal definition scope
Step 1: Goal Definition & Scope
  • Establish purpose & goal
  • Define decision criteria, function & functional unit
  • Define system boundaries
    • Life cycle stages
    • Time
    • Place
  • Determine required data quality
step 1 coffee maker
Step 1: Coffee Maker
  • Purpose of LCA?
    • Determine how to improve the environmental performance of a coffee maker
  • Decision criteria?
    • Total energy consumed, equivalent CO2 produced, eco-indicator 99 score
  • Function of coffee maker? Functional units?
    • Cups of coffee poured, Time coffee is warmed
  • System boundaries?
    • Five years of use, Europe, production, use & end-of-life stages
difficulties limitations of step 1
Difficulties & Limitations of Step 1
  • How do you compare different products that provide similar functions or services?
  • How do you compare similar products that provide multiple functions or services?
  • How do you define more abstract functional units such as entertainment from toys or higher self-esteem?
  • Where do you stop drawing the bounds to your system?
step 2 inventory analysis
Step 2: Inventory Analysis
  • Make process tree or flow chart classifying events in a product’s life cycle
  • Determine all mass and energy inputs and outputs
  • Collect relevant data
  • Make assumptions for missing data
  • Establish (correct) material and energy balance(s) for each stage and event
step 2 inventory analysis cont
Step 2: Inventory Analysis (cont.)

Input/output diagram for single stage or unit operation

Source: EPA Life-Cycle Design Guidance Manual, EPA Report no. EPA/600/R-92/226, p. 104.

step 2 coffee maker
Step 2: Coffee Maker

Understand the product components & materials first

Rested (bottom) View

Top (internal) View

Bottom (internal) View

Good View

Heater View

Source: http://home.howstuffworks.com/coffee-maker.htm

step 2 coffee maker14
Step 2: Coffee Maker

Simplified process tree for coffee maker

Source: http://www.pre.nl/download/EI99_Manual.pdf

step 2 coffee maker cont
Step 2: Coffee Maker (cont.)

Lifecycle inventory for coffee maker

White boxes are not included in assessment/inventory

Source: http://www.pre.nl/download/EI99_Manual.pdf

difficulties limitations of step 2
Difficulties & Limitations of Step 2
  • Finding data is hard and usually very time-consuming
    • Published data on material loads exists, but is often inconsistent and/or not directly applicable
  • Obtained data is usually discrete, static and linear (makes many simplifying assumptions)
    • Mistakes are easily made in quantification
    • Mass and energy balancesmay not be correct
    • Results can be generalized improperly
step 3 impact analysis

Environmental Impact

Environmental Load

depletion of biotic resources

copper

CO2

CFC

SO2

NOx

phosphorous

volatile organic compounds (VOCs)

heavy metals

PCB

pesticides

styrene

depletion of abiotic resources

greenhouse effect

ozone layer depletion

acidification

eutrophication

Scalar Indicator

(summer) smog

human toxicity

eco-toxicity

odour

Step 3: Impact Analysis
  • Define impact categories
  • Determine which loads affect different impact categories
  • Assign indicators to impact categories
  • Weigh importance of each category
step 3 paper or plastic
Step 3: Paper or Plastic?

Which is better?...

This is one reason why some folks prefer scalar vectors…

step 3 coffee maker
Step 3: Coffee Maker

Source: http://www.pre.nl/download/EI99_Manual.pdf

difficulties limitations of step 3
Difficulties & Limitations of Step 3
  • Subjective, subjective, subjective
    • Impact categories chosen
    • Indicators chosen for impact categories
    • How metrics / load affect impact indicators
    • Weightings used for impact categories
  • Where are the impacts occurring?
    • U.S., Europe, Brazil?
  • Is there damage already in the area being impacted?
  • How much can that area take before it breaks down? Or can it handle it without any problems?
  • How are managers and engineers supposed to know the effects of every load on the different impacts?
step 4 improvement analysis
Step 4: Improvement Analysis
  • Identify areas & opportunities for improvement
  • Evaluate wrt original goal definition
  • Target lifecycle areas/processes/events with large impacts
    • Large amounts w/ low hazard
    • Small amounts w/ high hazard
  • Ask yourself:
    • What are the resources required and risks involved?
step 4 coffee maker
Step 4: Coffee Maker

How to improve coffee maker? Where should we focus?

Source: http://www.pre.nl/download/EI99_Manual.pdf

general comments
General Comments
  • Domestic coffee maker is simple product
    • How would it be different from a commercial coffee maker (Starbucks)?
  • It is fairly representative of appliances - main impact is use phase
    • What other products is their main impact the use phase?
  • Which products is their main impact the production or disposal phase?

Table Source & Figures from 1st Slide: Ashby and coauthors, 2004, “The CES Eco-Selector – background reading”, 2nd edition, University of Cambridge and Granta Design, pp. 1-32.

summary
Summary
  • Focus should be on the product’s lifecycle, not the product itself
  • Presented the main steps of LCA (ISO 14040-14043)
  • Presented the limitations & difficulties of each step of LCA
  • While LCA has variations limitations, its underlying philosophy is right on