How does the choice of ILCD’s recommended methods change the assessment of environmental impacts in LCA of products?

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    The European Commission has launched a recommended set of characterization methods for application inlife cycle impact assessment (LCIA). However, it is not known yet whether the choice of the recommended practice, referred to as the ILCD, over existing LCIA methodologies matter for interpretation of LCA results. Here, we compare the ILCD with two of the most frequently used LCIA methodologies, IMPACT 2002+ and ReCiPe 2008, focusing on characterization at midpoint, by applying them on a case study comparing four window design options. First, to see whether the choice of ILCD matters for identification of product with the lowest environmental burden, ranking of the four window options was done for each impact category within each of the three methodologies. Next, impact scores calculated using each of the three methodologies were converted into common metrics for each impact category to see whether the choice of ILCD matters for total impact scores. Results show that apart from toxic impacts on human health and ecosystems, all three methodologies consistently identify the same window option as having the lowest and the highest total environmental impact. This is mainly because production of heat dominates the total impacts and there is large difference in demand for heat between the compared options. Yet, there were significant differences in impact scores for some of the impact categories after conversion to commonmetrics: above 3 orders of magnitude for impacts from ionizing radiation on human health and impacts from land use on natural environment; between 1 and 3 orders of magnitude for metal depletion and for toxicity-related impact categories; and within 1 order of magnitude for the remaining impact categories.These differences are caused by the differences in underlying characterization models and/or substance coverage, depending on the impact category. In summary, we showed that different LCIA methods, including the ILCD, are likely to point to the same conclusion with respect to identifying the product with the lowest environmental burden, if one process is driving environmental impacts and there is large difference in demand for output from that process between the compared options. Nevertheless, the choice of ILCD' matters the most for assessment of impacts from ionizing radiation, land use, resource depletion (minerals), and all toxicity-related impact categories, where differences between ILCD and alternative methodologies are large.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationAbstract Book - DTU Sustain Conference 2014
    Number of pages1
    Place of PublicationKgs. Lyngby
    PublisherTechnical University of Denmark
    Publication date2014
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    EventDTU Sustain Conference 2014 - Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark
    Duration: 17 Dec 201417 Dec 2014


    ConferenceDTU Sustain Conference 2014
    LocationTechnical University of Denmark
    Internet address

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