Participatory life cycle sustainability analysis

This presentation aims to contribute to the development and demonstration of an operational approach to life cycle sustainability analysis (LCSA). This approach originates from the framework developed within the EU project CALCAS. The framework is different from the life cycle sustainability assessment outlined by Klöpffer in that it not only broadens the scope of life cycle assessment (LCA) to include economic and social aspects, but also allows for deepening of the analysis. It is also different in that it does not predefine the LCSA to be the sum of LCA, life cycle costing (LCC) and social LCA. Instead, the sustainability indicators, the systems investigated and the methods used for the analysis are all decided case by case. Our LCSA approach has two distinct features: 1. the case-specific research questions are defined in a participatory procedure that involves an Open Space workshop; 2. the analyses are carried through by a network of researchers and experts. A network is necessary because the research questions are not known in advance.

We applied the approach in a sustainability assessment of a 50 km pipeline for transfer of residual heat from industries to a large district-heating system. The LCSA included 14 research questions on economic, environmental and social aspects. The results indicate that the pipeline is likely to reduce the total costs of the system, but the expected profit is rather small and uncertain, and it is difficult to find a market model that ensures everyone a share of this profit. The environmental benefits of the pipeline are highly dependent on what electricity production increases when the use of residual heat in the DH systems reduces the combined heat and power production in these systems. The pipeline is likely to have no significant impact on the employment and a somewhat negative impact on the land owners.

In conclusion, our LCSA approach proved to be operational. The Open Space format for workshops can generate a good basis for the research questions; however, care must be taken to ensure a balanced participation at the workshop, and complementary research questions might have to be added after the workshop. We found that an LCSA that is the sum of LCA, LCC and social LCA does not cover all sustainability aspects that stakeholders can consider important. We also found that the sustainability of a pipeline for residual heat is uncertain in this specific system and in the time frame investigated.

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