Steve Baer is a senior consultant for Five Winds International and has over 35 years of experience in manufacturing, product development, marketing and sustainability consulting. His focus is the building and construction industry. He is the chair of the USGBC LEED MR TAG, as well as a member of the LEED Technical Committee and an adjunct professor at University of Pennsylvania, presenting a course in Sustainable Practice in Business. Baer works with clients to understand and improve the environmental footprints and their sustainability practices and will be presenting at the American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) Green Composites Workshop, held June 21-22 in Chicago.
What is LCI and how does it play into LCA?
Life cycle inventory (LCI) is comprised of indicators or specific measurements that are taken at each particular point/location within the manufacturing process; for example, the amount of energy used manufacturing one part of an overall product, the emissions of a specific factory, or waste generated by a particular manufacturer. The life cycle assessment (LCA) is the mathematical model of a whole product from extraction of raw material to production. If I was determining the LCA on a composite bridge panel, I’d use LCI as input into a bridge, the composite. It also deals with the various phases of a product’s use to its ultimate end of life. In other words, LCA is the add-up of LCI. Then, the output of LCA becomes the information that is used for next product cycle.
What should composite manufacturers know about LCA?
It’s my job to help businesses and associations understand and improve performance so they can succeed. In the case of LCA, it will allow them to understand where opportunities are for improvement. Industries in general, not just composites, need to know more about where its environmental impacts are incurred because eventually consumers and end-users will select types of materials based on LCA. Often it’s in the supply chain, not necessarily the point of manufacturing.
How will LCA help composite companies in the short and long term?
In the short term, you will be able to address more questions from your customers. In the long term, it will allow you to better understand manufacturing procedures and give you the opportunity, especially from a cost view point, to uncover areas of environmental and cost improvement.
What are key issues in collecting LCI data?