Measuring Sustainability - materials

Life Cycle Assessment

A life cycle analysis and assessment (also known as life cycle analysis, life cycle inventory, cradle-to-gate/grave-analysis and material flow analysis) is the assessment of the environmental impact of a given product or service throughout its lifespan. LCA is the principle that underlies the Building Research Establishment's (BRE) Environmental Profiles, which then feeds into the Green Guide to Specification and the Green Guide to Housing Specification.
 
The goal of LCA is to compare the environmental performance of products and services, to be able to choose the least burdening one. The term 'life cycle' refers to the notion that a fair, holistic assessment requires the assessment of raw material production, manufacture, distribution, use and disposal including all intervening transportation steps. This is the life cycle of the product.
 
The procedures of life cycle analysis are part of the ISO 14000 environmental management.
 
Cradle-to-grave is an LCA of the materials used in making a product, from the extraction of materials and energy to the return of the materials to earth when the product is finally discarded.
 
Cradle-to-gate is the LCA of the efficiency of a product or service until it is produced or delivered. It shows the environmental performance as it is in its manufactured state. It is often used for environmental product declarations (EPD).
 
Gate-to-gate is an LCA carried out for a manufacturing process. Some companies use it to calculate the burden to the environment that their particular step in the supply chain has.
 
Cradle-to-cradle is a way of thinking about life cycles. If the grave of one cycle can be the cradle of its own or another, the life cycles are called cradle-to-cradle.

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