Allocation in lca of wood-based products experiences of cost action E9 part i. methodology

  • Gerfried JungmeierEmail author
  • Frank Werner
  • Anna Jarnehammar
  • Catharina Hohenthal
  • Klaus Richter
LCA Case Studies


Goal and Background

The treatment of allocation in the descriptive LCA of wood-based products has been discussed for a long time and different solutions have been presented. In general, it is accepted that the influence of different allocation procedures on the results of LCA of wood-based products can be very significant. This paper is a result of the Cost Action E9 ’Life cycle assessment of forestry and forest products’ and represents the experience of involved Cost E9 delegates.


Wood is a renewable material that can be used for wood products and energy production. Consistent methodological procedures are needed in order to correctly address the twofold nature of wood as a material and fuel, the multi-functional wood processing generating large quantities of co-products, and reuse or recycling of paper and wood. Ten different processes in LCAs of wood-based products are identified, where allocation questions can occur: forestry, sawmill, wood industry, pulp and paper industry, particle board industry, recycling of paper, recycling of wood-based boards, recycling of waste wood, combined heat and power production, landfill.


Following ISO 14 041 a step-wise procedure for system boundary setting and allocation are outlined. As a first priority allocation should be avoided by system expansion, thus adding additional functions to the functional unit. Alternatively, the avoided-burden approach can be followed by subtracting substituted functions of wood that are additionally provided. If allocation cannot be avoided, some allocations methods from case studies are described.


The following conclusions for allocation in LCA of wood-based products are given. 1) Avoid allocation by expansion of system boundaries by combining material and energy aspects of wood, meaning a combination of LCA of wood products and of energy from wood with a functional unit for products and energy. 2) Substitute energy from wood with conventional energy in the LCA of wood products to get the func-tional unit of the wood product only, but identify the criteria for the substituted energy. 3) Substitution of wooden products with non-wooden products in LCA of bioenergy is not advis able, because the substitution criteria can be too complex. 4) If avoiding allocation is not possible, the reasons should be documented. 5) Different allocation procedures must be analysed and documented. In many cases, it seems necessary to make a sensitivity analysis of different allocation options for different environmental effects. It can also be useful to get the acceptance of the chosen allocation procedure by external experts. 6) Different allocation factors, e.g. mass or economic value, are allowed within the same LCA. 7) For allocation of forestry processes it is necessary to describe the main function of the forest where the raw material is taken out. In some cases different types or functions of forests must be considered and described. 8) Regarding the experiences from the examples, the following most practical allocation for some specific processes are identified: forestry: mass or volume; sawmill: mass or volume and proceeds; wood industry: mass and proceeds.


Allocation bioenergy forest products forestry Cost E9 life cycle assessment wood products 


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Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerfried Jungmeier
    • 1
    Email author
  • Frank Werner
    • 2
  • Anna Jarnehammar
    • 3
  • Catharina Hohenthal
    • 4
  • Klaus Richter
    • 2
  1. 1.JOANNEUM RESEARCHInstitute of Energy ResearchGrazAustria
  2. 2.Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (EMPA)DuebendorfSwitzerland
  3. 3.Trätek, Swedish Institute for Wood Technology ResearchStockholmSweden
  4. 4.KCLHelsinkiFinland

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