(659a) Simplified Life Cycle Analysis As a Route to Fast Decision Making in Product and Process Development for Sustainability

Authors: 
Faucher, S., Hatch


The accounting of cradle-to-grave life cycle inventories for specific products often requires a substantial investment in time and resources. For this reason, few products are sold with an accompanying inventory of their life cycle impact on the environment. This lack of a baseline and the onerous effort required to obtain it can often lead to confusion in the development of new processes or products designed to be more sustainable. The new product or process is often designed based on the inventor’s baseline knowledge and perception of what is more sustainable. After the new product or process has been shown to achieve the desired performance attributes, a full life cycle inventory of the new product and the baseline product is then commissioned as it is now seen as more justified. Ideally, the life cycle impact of the new product developed is shown to be lower than the original product it is intended to replace.

This approach can be successful if the inventor understands intimately the effect of both material and process selection on the life cycle inventory and can predict the results of a life cycle assessment study. However, in most cases the products and processes are complicated and comprised of many parts making such estimations difficult. Thus the risk of designing a new product that is less sustainable than the baseline product it is intended to replace can be high. To address this, simplified life cycle analyses can be applied in the product/process design phase. While this approach does not map out the usage phase of the product, it can capture the substantial differences that process and material selection may have on the life cycle impact of the new product. With the use of simplified life cycle analysis prior to experimental product or process development, the life cycle impacts of several new hypothetical design options can be compared without investing considerable time in experimental development and later full life cycle analyses. This approach increases the speed and efficiency of product and process development for sustainability.

See more of this Session: Product and Process Development for Sustainability I

See more of this Group/Topical: Process Development Division
Topics: