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Criteria for the evaluation of life cycle assessment software packages and life cycle inventory data with application to concrete

Abstract

Purpose

Life cycle assessment (LCA) software packages have proliferated and evolved as LCA has developed and grown. There are now a multitude of LCA software packages that must be critically evaluated by users. Prior to conducting a comparative LCA study on different concrete materials, it is necessary to examine a variety of software packages for this specific purpose. The paper evaluates five LCA tools in the context of the LCA of seven concrete mix designs (conventional concrete, concrete with fly ash, slag, silica fume or limestone as cement replacement, recycled aggregate concrete, and photocatalytic concrete).

Methods

Three key evaluation criteria required to assess the quality of analysis are adequate flexibility, sophistication and complexity of analysis, and usefulness of outputs. The quality of life cycle inventory (LCI) data included in each software package is also assessed for its reliability, completeness, and correlation to the scope of LCA of concrete products in Canada. A questionnaire is developed for evaluating LCA software packages and is applied to five LCA tools.

Results and discussion

The result is the selection of a software package for the specific context of LCA of concrete materials in Canada, which will be used to complete a full LCA study. The software package with the highest score is software package C (SP-C), with 44 out of a possible 48 points. Its main advantage is that it allows for the user to have a high level of control over the system being modeled and the calculation methods used.

Conclusions

This comparative study highlights the importance of selecting a software package that is appropriate for a specific research project. The ability to accurately model the chosen functional unit and system boundary is an important selection criterion. This study demonstrates a method to enable a critical and rigorous comparison without excessive and redundant duplication of efforts.

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario-Highway Infrastructure Innovative Funding Program for supporting this research. Opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and may not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. The authors also acknowledge IC-IMPACTS.

Author information

Correspondence to Daman K. Panesar.

Additional information

An erratum to this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11367-017-1273-3.

Responsible editor: Martin Baitz

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Seto, K.E., Panesar, D.K. & Churchill, C.J. Criteria for the evaluation of life cycle assessment software packages and life cycle inventory data with application to concrete. Int J Life Cycle Assess 22, 694–706 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1060-6

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Keywords

  • Cement
  • Concrete
  • Evaluation criteria
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Life cycle inventory
  • Questionnaire
  • Software