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Article: Your guide to LCA


Estimated time to read: 3 minutes


Your guide to LCA

LCA is a standardized analytical method that helps understand and estimate the environmental impact of products. The Life Cycle Assessment allows us to get quantitative and comparable information at different stages of the production process regarding the product or service we are producing.

Let us take bricks as an example: an LCA would evaluate the environmental impact of the brick from the extraction of raw materials to end-of-life disposal or recycling. Having this information available enables us to make more conscious environmental decisions in the future. The life cycle assessment is conducted in accordance with ISO 14040 and 14044 and consists of the following stages.

Goal and scope definition

Defining the goal of our study and the corresponding audience is the first step. It is important to work on the structure of the study and set specific objectives. For our brick example, we may focus on the overall environmental footprint of extracting raw materials, manufacturing, transporting, and using bricks in construction projects. We will aid both manufacturers and consumers in making eco-friendly choices.

Life Cycle Inventory (LCI)

This phase involves collecting data and quantifying our input materials, such as raw materials and energy, and output materials, such as emissions and waste. All stages of the product and service life cycle are considered during this stage. With bricks, we gather information on the extraction and processing of raw materials, energy consumption in manufacturing, and emissions from these processes.

Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA)

In the Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA), emissions are categorized according to their environmental impact. These emissions are then converted into standard measures for easy comparison. This helps understand the potential environmental effects, which can be prioritized based on the main goals of the overall Life Cycle Assessment. In our example, the data from the brick LCI stage is then associated with specific environmental impacts, such as energy consumption, air pollution, and waste generation.

Life Cycle Interpretation phase

In the final stage of a Life Cycle Assessment, we review the gathered data to ensure it aligns with our original objectives. Every step is checked to make sure it is complete and consistent, and that nothing has been missed. This data is used to discuss the good and bad points, the quality of our information, and areas for improvement.

In this method of assessment, the goal is not simply to shift problems from one place to another, but to reduce harm to the environment. Reviewing the results of our hypothetical brick LCIA, we observe that raw material extraction and manufacturing are significant contributors to the brick’s environmental footprint. Based on that, we can issue recommendations for manufacturers with specific practices to reduce these impacts.