Institut de Gestion de l'Environnement et d'Aménagement du Territoire

Overriding LCA in the wood product sector using simplified parametric modeling

This study discusses the methodology and applications for simplifying Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in the wood products’ sector in order to reduce LCA complexity for Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The objective is to develop a methodology that is simple yet reliable, so that the majority of the environmental impact of a product can be explained by only a few processes in the production chain (i.e. parameters, pieces of life cycle inventory). SMEs, Benefit Corporations and other company configurations can use this information to design, manufacture and analyze their products and value chains by concentrating on the parameters that have the highest contribution to environmental impact.

The simplification of a more complex system from a full LCA requires using a small number of relevant input parameters. Glued laminated timber i.e. glulam, is used as a case study on which the methodology is developed and tested in order to define a framework to find the significant variable and fixed parameters. This LCA simplification aims to be accomplished using principles from global sensitivity analysis as an alternative to a full LCA. Results from seven midpoint impact indicators are analyzed according to the highest ranking input parameters in the glulam system, according to their proportion contributing to overall environmental impact.

Using a glulam case study, the definition of the parametric model of the full life cycle inventory is based on 86 independent parameters. Exploring this methodology to determine key parameters involves researching new techniques in combining amplification factor calculations and global sensitivity analysis (GSA). Sobol and Morris methods are chosen to accomplish a ranking of the most impactful parameters and the interaction between parameters, respectively.

Main Steps: Amplification factor calculations reduced the parameters from 86 to the 18 main contributors to environmental impact over seven impact categories. Then, the top few key parameters are to be calculated using global sensitivity analysis. Next, the remaining key parameters are to be identified using concepts from simplified parametric modeling. SMEs and other practitioners can use the methodology in order to assess the environmental impact of their products.

Further applications: The methodology may be adapted to investigate the combination of LCA and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) concerns as the investigative goal, related to a wide array of products or concerns in the forest industry. Ultimately, the framework can be expanded in order to incorporate Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) into the analysis which will enable the calculation of a triple bottom line assessment.