F&ES 950b / 2013-2014

Life Cycle Assessment Practicum

Credits: 3

Spring 2014: Tu,Th, 10:30-11:50, Sage 24
Spring OCI Listing    



The field of industrial ecology includes environmental systems analysis tools to assist practitioners to understand, redesign and realign industrial systems and activities to be more ecologically and economically sound. An important tool in the field of industrial ecology is life cycle assessment (LCA), which considers system-wide impacts along the entire life cycle of a product, from production to consumption to disposal, and generally provides quantitative information for a range of different environmental issues. More recently, social impacts are also being addressed in life cycles and supply chains, leading to the definition of life cycle sustainability assessment. The tool of LCA is used by industry, governments, NGOs, retailers and researchers to provide data-driven guidance to efforts at improving the sustainability of the production and consumption of goods and services. This course will enable participants to develop a hands-on and in-depth understanding of the intellectual foundation and standards of LCA, common databases and software packages used, and their application to products and systems. Students will also learn about various business aspects and strategies of LCA, such as life cycle management (LCM), corporate social responsibility and decision making that will enable them to apply these tools effectively in corporate environments.         

Content of the Course

As a practicum course, students will work on real projects with industry partners in order to achieve skills and training as an analyst in this field. The course will begin with an introduction to LCA, the computational structure and the international standards that govern its use. Students will then be introduced to LCA software packages (SimaPro, GaBi, and openLCA) and inventory databases, and will work through a number of model products and systems. Application of the LCA methodology by businesses and organizations for the purpose to ensure more sustainable value chain management will be discussed. This initial training will enable students to carry out their independent group projects over the remainder of the course. Regular project updates will then occur in class and individually with the instructors, and results will be presented to project clients at the end of the course. Special sessions later during the term will focus on methodological challenges of LCA and LCM and discuss current “hot topics” in the field. The overall goal of the course is to provide the skills necessary to undertake professional LCA work in the realms of business, consulting, and government.


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