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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh Futures Institute : Edinburgh Futures Institute

Postgraduate Course: Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment (fusion on-site) (EFIE11155)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh Futures Institute CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryLife cycle assessment: How do we know the social and environmental impacts of a product or service? How do we know if a product/system is linear or adhering to a circular economy? Are there robust methodologies to assess and measure the success of circular design? This course will introduce life cycle assessment (LCA), a cradle-to-cradle analysis technique to assess the social and environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life cycle, from raw material extraction, materials processing, manufacture, distribution, and use, to end-of-life.
Course description When designing products and services that are consistent with the principles of a circular economy, it is essential to have information on the social and environmental impacts of design decisions. Life cycle assessment is an analytical method that aims to provide this information. The method is used extensively within industry, policymaking, and academia, and has been formalised in international standards, guidance documents, and legislation. Nevertheless, the method also continues to evolve, with on-going debates about its appropriate use and methodological development. This course introduces the concept of life cycle assessment, how to do an LCA, and also aims to provoke critical reflection on the appropriate use of the method.

Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) - On-Site Fusion Course Delivery Information:

The Edinburgh Futures Institute will teach this course in a way that enables online and on-campus students to study together. This approach (our 'fusion' teaching model) offers students flexible and inclusive ways to study, and the ability to choose whether to be on-campus or online at the level of the individual course. It also opens up ways for diverse groups of students to study together regardless of geographical location. To enable this, the course will use technologies to record and live-stream student and staff participation during their teaching and learning activities.

Students should be aware that:
- Classrooms used in this course will have additional technology in place: students might not be able to sit in areas away from microphones or outside the field of view of all cameras.
- Unless the lecturer or tutor indicates otherwise you should assume the session is being recorded.

As part of your course, you will need access to a personal computing device. Unless otherwise stated activities will be web browser based and as a minimum we recommend a device with a physical keyboard and screen that can access the internet.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  22
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 12, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 2, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 3, Online Activities 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 79 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Summative Assessment:

The course will be assessed by means of the following assessment components:

1) Individual LCA Critique (40%)

Students will be asked to critically discuss the limitations and appropriate uses of attributional and consequential LCA. Multimodal submission allowed (essay, video with slide deck, podcast).

2) Individual Performing a Product Life Cycle Assessment (60%)

Completion of a consequential LCA using designated spreadsheet software. The submission should be an Excel spreadsheet. Students will be asked to select a product from a list provided, to source secondary data for constructing a life cycle inventory, and to undertake a consequential life cycle impact assessment. (Word limit is not applicable).
Feedback Formative feedback will be given on the in-class group/individual Excel-based exercise for implementing an LCA. This will be directly relevant to the assessed LCA exercise.

Summative feedback will be given on Assessments 1 & 2.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand and critically discuss the key concepts within life cycle assessment.
  2. Apply software and/or databases to undertake a life cycle assessment.
  3. Critically evaluate the appropriate uses and limitations of attributional and consequential life cycle assessment.
Reading List
Essential Reading:

Brander, M. (2016) 'Transposing lessons between different forms of consequential greenhouse gas accounting: lessons for consequential life cycle assessment, project-level accounting, and policy-level accounting', Journal of Cleaner Production. Elsevier Ltd, 112, pp. 4247-4256.

Brander, M., Burritt, R. L. and Christ, K. L. (2019) 'Coupling attributional and consequential life cycle assessment: A matter of social responsibility', Journal of Cleaner Production. Elsevier Ltd, 215, pp. 514-521. doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.01.066.

ISO (2020) 'ISO 14044 - Environmental management - Life cycle assessment - Principles and framework'. Geneva, Switzerland: International Organization for Standardization.

Searchinger, T. et al. (2008) 'Use of U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change.', Science, 319(5867), pp. 1238-40. doi: 10.1126/science.1151861.

Life Cycle Assessment Video:

Recommended Reading:

Ekvall, T. and Weidema, B. (2004) 'System boundaries and input data in consequential life cycle inventory analysis', The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 9(3), pp. 161-171. doi: 10.1007/BF02994190.

Andreasi Bassi, S. et al. (2021) 'A life cycle assessment framework for large-scale changes in material circularity', Waste Management. Elsevier Ltd, 135(March), pp. 360-371. doi: 10.1016/j.wasman.2021.09.018.

Schmidt, J. (2010) 'Comparative life cycle assessment of rapeseed oil and palm oil', The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 15(2), pp. 183-197. doi: 10.1007/s11367-009-0142-0.

Thomassen, M. A. et al. (2008) 'Attributional and consequential LCA of milk production', The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 13(4), pp. 339-349. doi: 10.1007/s11367-008-0007-y.

Evironmental Product Declarations:

Ecoinvent Database:
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Research & Enquiry:
- Be able to identify and evaluate LCA results and data.
- Be able to analyse, and critically and methodically appraise LCA methods.

- Be able to communicate complex results, ideas, and arguments using a range of media.

Personal effectiveness (team working):
- An ability to work collaboratively with people from a range of cultures and backgrounds.

Communication Skills:
- Articulate and effectively explain information pertaining to life cycle assessment.

Personal and Intellectual Autonomy:
- Develop reflective awareness of the ethical dimensions of LCA.
KeywordsLife Cycle Assessment,Circular Economy,Resource Efficiency,EFI,PG,Level 11
Course organiserDr Matthew Brander
Tel: (0131 6)51 5547
Course secretaryMiss Veronica Silvestre
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