Enhancing the application efficiency of life cycle assessment for industrial uses

Sustainable development is an issue that is gaining more and more relevance in all areas of society, though specifically in industry. In order to move towards the goal of sustainability, life cycle thinking is an essential element. For the implementation of life cycle thinking in industry life cycle management (LCM) has been proposed as the general concept. However, the assessment of environmental impacts with the method of life cycle assessment, which is essentially the only tool available for this purpose, has been limited in industrial practice due to involved complexity and the resulting necessary effort and know-how. Therefore, this thesis proposed improved methods that enhance the application efficiency of LCA for industrial uses. After a short introduction in Chapter 1, new developments for the more efficient application of LCA for environmental assessments are presented in Chapter 2 – both for situations where pre-existing data are available and for studies, where no or very limited information of the involved unit processes and elementary flows exist. This concerns the modeling based on reusable elements as well as limiting system boundaries by recommended cut-offs. Specific and easy to apply recommendations for using cut-off rules are proposed. Chapter 3 explores another path, namely the usage of LCA models for life cycle costing. A consistent framework of the economic life cycle based assessment in sustainable development is proposed and tested. Essentially, one can conclude that the deployment of the systems approach and underlying model of LCA is extremely useful also for conducting economic analyses, while causing very little additional efforts. Chapter 4 elaborates case studies, one for an automotive component, and one for the service of waste water treatment. Detailed LCA results are presented and discussed, and the aforementioned methods in regards to a more efficient LCA "from scratch" and relating to life cycle costing are tested and demonstrated. The thesis concludes with some concise recommendations for future research and development activities in relation to a better usage of LCA and related life cycle approaches.

    Thèse École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL, n° 3307 (2005)
    Section des sciences et ingénierie de l'environnement
    Faculté de l'environnement naturel, architectural et construit
    Institut des sciences et technologies de l'environnement
    Laboratoire de gestion des écosystèmes
    Jury: François Golay, Walter Kloepffer, André Mermoud, Stefan Seuring

    Public defense: 2005-7-29


    Record created on 2005-07-12, modified on 2016-08-08

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