LCA, the basics

How to learn it quickly,
and be able to do it yourself

The aim of LCA is to calculate the eco-burden of a product chain (cradle-to-grave as well as cradle-to-cradle), as is simplified by Fig. 5.1a.
LCA has a formal procedure that is called Rigorous LCA, as well as a practical  “Fast Track” method (making use of Excel look-up tables), derived from the rigorous method (in compliance with the ISO 140040, 140044, and the LCA handbook of the ILCD).
The rigorous way is complex, and costs a lot of time, and most companies hire specialized consultants for it. Science isn’t science without making it complex, last but not least by using a jargon that can not easily be understood. Therefore the Delft University of technology developed a method that gives exactly the same results: Fast Track LCA, that is explained at this website. The aim of Fast Track LCA and its tool is to make the analysis doable in a short period of time (hours, rather than  days or weeks), and gives the required information for design and engineering of innovative products and services for the circular industry (answering the questions “is A better than B?” and “where are the opportunities for further improvement?”).

The fastest way to learn it is:

  1. look at the two lectures, part 1 and part2, of the University, see webpage videos
  2. make the LCA exercises of the course book of the INNOMAT course
  3. read the book “A practical guide for students, designers and business managers
  4. read the pages at this website for further information and examples (truck + trailer, transport packaging, airplane tickets)

The choice on the indicator

When you have to make an LCA, the first thing to do is to make a choice on which “single indicator” you will use. There are 3 types of single indicators:

  • “damage based” indicators: e.g. the ReCiPe indicator H/A (unit= Points), and the Environmental Footprint (EF)
  • single issue indicators: e.g. the carbon footprint (unit= kg CO2 equivalent), and the Cumulative Energy Demand (CED)