"Fast Track" LCA

At this page, the "Fast Track" LCA Method is explained. It is shown how a designer can make an LCA in practice.

From the example under the tab rigorous LCA it can be concluded that, when the LCI (mass balance and energy balance) of the subsystems has been made, the LCA can be calculated in a more simple way. It is easier to multiply the inputs and outputs directly by eco-costs factors which are available in the Ecocosts 2007 LCA databases. It isn't necessary to bother about classification, charaterisation, normalisation, etc. We call this the Fast Track LCA Method (also called the "Philips method", since Philips Electronics was the first company which did LCA's in this way).
See the modified example "testliner FEFCO 2003 Fast Track LCA" .

In this Fast Track LCA Method the focus is back to where it should be: focus on what to calculate (instead of how to calculate), and how to improve the design.

The first and most important step in LCA is the definition of the product system (the product life cycle). The main structure of a product life cycle is depicted in Fig. 8.2. This slide shows also the logical subdivision in subsystems (the so-called "units") as it is normally applied by LCA practioners. In most databases on LCI and LCA, like the Ecocosts 2007 LCA databases and IDEMAT, data are provided of these subsystems (from "cradle to gate", from "gate to gate" and from "gate to grave").
For each specific case, the total chain must be composed from these subsystems.
When complex calculations have to be made, and LCIs of other LCI databases have to be applied, it is important to understand the structure of the LCIs. See under tab LCI structure.

The model of the EVR calculates the total system strictly "from cradle to grave".
In the system of slide 8.2 a calculation always starts with the subsystems
- materials from production (mining), and
- materials from recycling (starting from the stock of waste materials).
The calculation always stops with the subsystems
- separation until the waste material stocks for recycling, and
- separation with End of Life operations like land fill, incineration, production of energy and/or heat.

Note 1. The benefit of recycling is determined by the comparison of two systems: one with 0% recycling and one with 100% recycling. See under tab recycling.
Note 2. The boundary limit of the system is the stock of waste materials for recycling. The model of the EVR does not allocate eco-costs over this boundary (so-called cascading), since it makes calculation systems complex, and it doesn't serve any purpose. The issue of grades (=quality) of materials is also kept out of the eco-costs system: grades are dealt with in the economic side of the EVR. See also under tab allocation.
Note 3. When in the End of Life stage materials such as wood are applied for generation of heat and/or electricity, this heat and electricity has negative eco-costs (since it is useful output of the system). This negative eco-costs may be regarded as "avoided eco-costs of CO2 emissions". This the preferred way to deal with the so-called sequestration (=capture and storage) of CO2 in wood.

The issue of the right choice of the functional unit is important, since a wrong choice leads to wrong conclusions at the end of the LCA (the stage of interpretation) The functional unit describes the functional specification of the product and in terms of the aim of the design."..... The functional unit describes the primary function(s) fulfilled by the product system, usually in the use phase. The functional unit enables different systems to be treated as functionally equivalent, and allows reference flows to be determined for each of them...." (quoted from the Handbook LCA). A proper choice of the functional unit should withhold the designer from minimization of the eco-costs at the cost of quality. (e.g. transport packaging must provide sufficient protection for the product which has to be transported). The unit as such is also important: for transport packaging the eco-costs per kg (of the packaging) is less relevant than the eco-cost per litre contained product, since the function of the packaging is to bring a product from A to B.
Concluding: the choice of functional unit must prevent sub-optimisation.

Example: a truck+trailer, see excel file "truck+trailer".
Note 1. This example is structured along the life cycle chain (for the colours, see Fig 8.2 above).
Note 2. The high aggregation level results in only "inputs" in terms of LCI. So there are no direct "outputs" (=emissions) in this table. The emissions are given in terms of the eco-costs of the "inputs".

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