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An approach to LCSA: the case of concrete recycling

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Abstract

<p><strong>Purpose</strong> The framework of life cycle sustainability analysis (LCSA) has been developed within the CALCAS project but the procedure on how an LCSA should be carried out is still far from standardized. The purpose of this article is to propose an approach to put the LCSA framework into practice. This approach is illustrated with an on-going case study on concrete recycling.<br/> <strong>Methods</strong> In the context of an EC-FP7 project on technology innovation for concrete recycling, five operational steps to implement the LCSA framework are proposed: (1) broad system definition, (2) making scenarios, (3) defining subquestions for individual tools, (4) application of the tools and (5) interpreting the results in an LCSA framework. Focus has been put on the goal and scope definition (steps 1–3) to illustrate how to define a doable and meaningful LCSA. Steps 4–5 are not complete in the case study and are elaborated theoretically in this paper. <br/> <strong>Results and discussion</strong> The experience from the case study shows that the operational steps are especially useful at the stage of defining the goal and scope. Breaking down the sustainability questions into different scales and different aspects gives the possibility to define the sub-questions suitable to be assessed by the individual analytical tools (e.g., LCA, LCC, SLCA, MFA, etc.). The C2CA-LCSA shows a practical approach to model the life cycle impacts of the broad system is to start by modelling the technological system at the micro level and then scale it up with the realistic scenario settings that are generated with the knowledge gained from the MFA studies at the meso-level and from the policy/economic studies at the macro level. The combined application of LCA, LCC and SLCA at the project level shows not all the cost items and only one social impact indicator can be modelled in the process-based LCA structure. Thus it is important to address the left out information at the interpretation step.<br/> <strong>Conclusions</strong> Defining sub-questions on three different levels seems most useful to frame an LCSA study at the early stage of goal and scope definition. Although this study provides some useful steps for the operationlisation of the LCSA concept, it is clear that additional case studies are needed to move LCSA into a practical framework for the analysis of complex sustainability problems.</p>

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