Performing an LCA can be very resource and time intensive. Depending upon how thorough the user wishes to be, gathering the data can be problematic, and the availability of data can greatly impact the accuracy of the final results. Therefore, it is important to weigh the availability of data, the time needed to conduct the study, and the financial resources required against the projected benefits of the LCA.
LCA will not determine which product or process is the most cost effective or works the best. Therefore, the information developed in an LCA study should be used as one component of a more comprehensive decision process assessing the tradeoffs with cost and performance.
There are a number of ways to conduct LCIA. While the methods are typically science based, the complexity of environmental systems has led to the development of alternative impact models.
The role of impact assessment is to categorize and quantify potential environmental effects. Once this is done, deciding whether one impact is worse than another is necessarily a subjective process in which the perceptions of the decision maker are applied.
While LCA can help identify potential environmental tradeoffs, converting the impact results to a single score requires the use of value judgments, which must be applied by the commissioner of the study or the modeler. This can be done in different ways such as through the use of an expert panel, but it cannot be done based solely on natural science.
All assumptions or decisions made throughout the entire project must be reported alongside the final results of the LCA project. If assumptions are omitted, the final results may be taken out of context or easily misinterpreted. As the LCA process advances from phase to phase, additional assumptions and limitations to the scope may be necessary to accomplish the project with the available resources.
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