Life Cycle Assessment Method Development
The emphasis of our research lies on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology and its development, this concerns Life Cycle Inventories (LCI) as well as in Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA).
With regard to life-cycle inventory analysis, we are involved in the ecoinvent project, which is the largest transparent data base of Life Cycle Inventories. We also develop industrial-sector specific inventory tools to estimate a large number of inventory data as a function of limited input information. Finally, in our recent research we provide regionalized inventory data, e.g. for agricultural products and power plants, with a global coverage.
Our group was among the first to develop operational regionalized Life Cycle Assessment approaches, such as LCIA methods for water consumption and land use. We also address impact categories that previously were neglected in LCA, such as indoor pollution, and revise others that can be improved. In developing these methods, we take care that they are applicable in LCA studies. A previous group member is the main developer of the open-source LCA Brightway software that enables regionalized life cycle inventory analysis and impact assessment. An upcoming topic in our research is the temporal differentiation of LCIA.
The production of goods and services varies considerably around the world. Emissions can also vary, depending on the production technology, pollution control equipment, energy sources, and other factors. The impact of these emissions is a function of their amount, transformation, and dispersion, but also of the sink region's population density, soil type, background emissions, and numerous other characteristics of the natural and industrial ecosystem. In life cycle assessment, regionalization is the recognition that place is an integral component of inventory and impact assessment modelling.
Current Research Projects
- Environmental Assessment of Water Use
- Global and Spatially Differentiated Methodology for the Assessment of Agricultural (Ground-) Water Use Impacts on Terrestrial Biodiversity
- Global power production: Regionalized Emissions and Impact Assessment
- Life Cycle Management of wood in Switzerland: methods, tools, and environmental decision support
- Methodology of Regionalization
- Sustainable Production and Consumption of Foods
- Sustainable Use of Natural Resources: Assessing Impacts on Natural Resources with Relation to Biomass Provision – An Integrated View on Land and Water Resources
Finished Research Projects
When looking at a product's life cycle, emissions and resource use as well as the resulting impacts usually occur at different points in time. For instance, construction materials are often 'stored' in buildings for many decades before they are recycled or disposed of. In order to capture such system dynamics, we use scenario analysis in combination with substance flow analysis and temporally differentiated fate models to quantify possible future emission flows. Temporally differentiated analyses raise the question whether the same weight should be assigned to current and future emissions. In this context, we discuss the transferability of economical concepts such as discounting to environmental problems.