Life Cycle Assessment

Lecture     Exercises     Teacher’s manual

This module presents the basics of life cycle assessment (LCA). Starting from the benefits of taking the perspective of the full life cycle of product systems, the module presents the philosophy of LCA. Fundamental questions that can be answered using LCA are analysed, with a focus on the avoidance of burden shifting and regrettable substitution. The ISO standard series on LCA is used to describe the various phases of conducting an LCA study, starting from goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, and impact assessment, up to the interpretation phase. Methodological subtleties in the various phases are explained also using intuitive examples. An exercise accompanies the theory lecture. The focus of this practicum is on the development of a full case study. At first, students are guided through the analysis of a simple system with two connected processes. This system allows the exploration of all phases of LCA in detail, with consideration of methodological components such as the selection of system boundaries, and allocation of impacts to multi-functional processes. A full case study on the assessment of NdFeB magnets completes the practicum. This part of the practical session allows further refining the LCA skills of the students.

Learning objectives:

  • Understanding of the basics of life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Understanding of the steps involved in a LCA case study, from data collection to interpretation of results
  • Comprehending the basic methodological issues of LCA
  • Applying LCA to simple case studies