F&ES 838b / 2019-2020

Environmental Product Life Cycle Assessment

Credits: 3

Spring 2020: W, 2:30-5:20, Bowers


Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an analytical method that aims to quantify potential environmental impacts along the entire life cycle of a product, from extraction or harvest of natural, mineral, or fossil resources through production, distribution, and consumption to final end-of-life disposal or reuse / recycling. LCA provides a quantitative evaluation of a wide range of environmental issues to avoid unintended consequences such as shifting the burden between different life stages or different environmental concerns. Its primary applications include decision support in the context of design-for-environment programs and policy making as well as providing a science-based basis for environmental claims used for marketing products in business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) settings.

The course will be split into a lecture (2:30-3:50 pm) and a software lab (4:00-5:20 pm). The lecture will convey the general principles and relevant definitions of the LCA methodology as defined in the ISO 14040 series of standards and exemplify them through reference to real-world examples covering different industry sectors and product categories. The overall goal of the lecture is to provide the knowledge necessary to scope, manage, and scrutinize LCA studies in the business, consulting, or government sectors. 

In addition to the lecture, the students will receive training on the professional grade GaBi software for life cycle assessment (www.gabi-software.com) to provide them with the necessary practical skills and life cycle inventory data to complete their class projects, which will be an LCA study of their own choosing. The goal of the software training is to provide the basic practical skills necessary to conduct life cycle inventory modeling and to convey a deeper understanding of the complexities and challenges associate with LCA in practice.

The class will be taught by Dr. Christoph Koffler, Technical Director Americas at thinkstep, an international sustainability consultancy with a strong focus on LCA. Dr. Koffler earned his PhD in the German automotive industry while working to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of LCA in the product development process. He is an active contributor and reviewer for relevant scientific publications, a Member of the Board of the American Center of Life Cycle Assessment (https://aclca.org/), the current Chair of ACLCA’s & SETAC North America’s Joint Life Cycle Assessment Interest Group’s Steering Committee (https://www.setac.org/group/SNAIGLCA), and he actively contributes to the development of LCA-related ISO standards.