Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Engineering
Life Cycle Assessment
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) describes a systematic analysis of environmental impacts of products, processes or services along their whole life cycle (“from cradle to grave”). This includes all environmental impacts in production, use phase and end of life as well as the related up- and downstream processes (e.g. manufacturing of raw materials and supplies). The method of Life Cycle Assessment can serve as a tool for environmental-based decisions. It’s used to develop and improve products, within the scope of strategic planning, political decision making processes and in marketing.
Basically, the following procedure can be used to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment:
- First step includes the analyses of all material and energy flows of a product system (i.e. all processes) along the life cycle of a product.
- Secondly, all emissions in air, water, soil and also resources taken from nature are balanced in the so called life cycle inventory along the life cycle.
- Afterwards – in the context of a life cycle impact assessment – you evaluate potential environmental impacts like greenhouse effect, summer smog, acidification, eutrophication etc.
A Life Cycle Assessment can be divided into four steps (DIN EN 14040):
- Definition of goal and scope
Within the first step of a Life Cycle Assessment the goal and scope are defined. This contains e.g. the definition of system boundaries, function of the system, requirements on data quality etc.
- Life Cycle Inventory (=LCI)
The LCI contains the data collection of all required inputs (resources, intermediate products) and outputs (emissions, wastes) and the preparation of an input output table.
- Life Cycle Impact Assessment (=LCIA)
The LCIA calculates potential environmental impacts, impacts on human health and availability of resources by using the results of the LCI.
- Evaluation/ Interpretation
Last step of a LCA comprises the interpretation of the results from LCI and LCIA in regard to the goal of the LCA study.
Life Cycle Engineering
Life Cycle Engineering analyses potential economical, ecological, technical and social impacts of products, processes and services along the whole life cycle.
This multidimensional perspective ensures the consideration of all essential factors in a sustainable decision finding process. Clear description of the results guarantees best transparency and a good basis for relevant decision makers accordingly.