With the increased concern over the impact that products and processes have on the environment, tools such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) have been developed to assess environmental impacts. However, several issues are present in this tool; chief among them is the difficulty of comparing LCA studies. The attributed reasons for this issue are the lack of standardized assumptions and practices, the definition of the functional unit and the identification of reference flows. In this work, it is hypothesized that system engineering and functional analysis concepts are a promising approach to provide guidelines for system definition, system boundary definition, and reference flows identification. Based on this premise, this work delineates a framework to address some of the issues present in the early stages of LCA, and to ultimately help enable comparisons between different LCA studies. This framework was initially exercised with some simple examples to demonstrate the initial feasibility of the model. With the insights gained from these simple test cases, the proposed process was applied to a practical case study to assess the utility of the framework through the use of the SimaPro® software. The application of this framework through the case study demonstrated that the proposed approach holds promise. In particular, the case demonstrated that application of system engineering methods was a useful construct. Furthermore, the importance of decoupling consumer use from the reference flows and functional unit definition processes proved to be very useful. The implication of these two results is that the possibility of re-using already existing data, models, and projects becomes feasible since the framework creates an easy to adapt structure.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Product life cycle--Environmental aspects; Functional analysis; Systems engineering

Publication Date


Document Type


Department, Program, or Center

Industrial and Systems Engineering (KGCOE)


Esterman, Marcos


Note: imported from RIT’s Digital Media Library running on DSpace to RIT Scholar Works. Physical copy available through RIT's The Wallace Library at: TS161 .F86 2012


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