Consequential Life Cycle Assessment modelling

An in-depth introduction to the technique of consequential Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) modelling via case studies of real life applications. The relation to the ISO standards for LCA. The challenges of completeness, consistency, uncertainty and communication.

The course


  • A short history of LCA and its rationale.
  • Life cycle concepts and definitions. The life cycle as a model. The choice between consequential and attributional models.
  • Application areas of LCA. An eco-design case-study: Incremental improvements or radical change?
  • Consequential LCA modelling in the ISO standards.
  • Exercises with real life cases illustrating the role of scoping the LCA: identification of the product’s functional unit and the alternatives to be compared.
  • Identifying and linking marginal suppliers in a supply chain. The role of markets, market trends, and constraints. Linking forward to marginal consumers when markets are constrained. Examples from the ecoinvent database.
  • Case studies illustrating the importance of the product system boundaries: Cut-off rules, boundaries between the technosphere and the environment, geographical boundaries, time horizon and rebound effects.
  • Exercises with real life data on the handling of co-production and recycling by substitution and system expansion. The distinction between combined and joint production. Identifying the determining product.
  • Data requirements and sources for consequential LCA models. The importance of data management, documentation and data quality assessment. Economic, mass and energy balancing. Examples and exercises with real-life data, real-life errors and state-of-the-art data validation tools and techniques.
  • Calculation routines in consequential LCA. Simple exercise with a matrix in Excel and in dedicated LCA software.
  • Life Cycle Screening: A short and simple case study. The value of quantitative versus qualitative data. LCA of an organisation.
  • Using historical data to support current decisions with future consequences: The importance of scenarios and forecasting.
  • Consequential modelling in impact assessment: Distance-to-target versus impact pathway modelling.
  • Case study illustrating uncertainty analysis, the sources of uncertainty, and the difference between precision and accuracy.
  • Communicating LCA: Systems thinking and the confusion of the model with reality. Value choices. Managing stakeholder expectations.
  • Operating under different standards: generic standards, single-issue-standards (greenhouse gases, water, etc.), national standards, and product category rules.

Form and academic recognition:

Form: 10 hours lectures, 10 hours workshops/exercises.
Academic recognition: 2 ECTS-point (including pre-course reading).

Learning outcomes:

Understanding the current state of consequential LCA, including its terminology and relation to other techniques. Understanding of the role of the ISO standards for consequential LCA. Be able to scope a consequential LCA, to identify marginal producers, identify determining co-products and to handle all co-product issues with causal modelling. Understanding the challenges and good and bad practices in LCA practice, related to scoping, system boundaries, data management, system modelling, impact assessment and uncertainty management. Understanding controversial aspects of LCA and potential solutions. Understanding the prerequisites for realising the full potential of LCA. Ability to deal with issues regarding consistency, completeness and transparency in LCA.

Participant prerequisites:

Bachelor degree or equivalent. Must bring own laptop computer.