Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) measures the environmental impacts of the production, use and disposal of products and services in accordance with the international standards ISO 14040/44. By conducting an LCA, organizations can demonstrate how their products show environmental advantages over competitive products. The LCA process can also help manufacturers select materials/energy sources with lower environmental impacts during the design phase or make environmental improvements to existing processes.

LCA is the ideal tool for identifying life-cycle stage(s) with significant environmental impacts of one product or process. In addition, LCA can be used as a tool with other techniques — such as Greenhouse Gas accounting — for assessing and reducing a product’s carbon footprint. Covestro supports Life Cycle Assessment through two activities:

  • We actively support industry associations in preparing modern, industry average life-cycle data for our major product types.
  • LCA support services personnel from Covestro's Product Safety and Regulatory Affairs (PSRA) group have extensive experience in developing LCAs for Covestro materials and their key applications. In particular, PSRA’s domain expertise in product compositions, toxicology, risk assessment, safe use/handling, emissions measurement, end of life options, and industrial hygiene provides strong technical support in facilitating the LCA studies conducted at Covestro. PSRA uses its own ISO standard compliant LCA process which is applied to assure quality and consistency of LCA studies.

Managing Your Company’s LCA Process

LCA is becoming increasingly popular in the United States as more organizations focus on sustainability and look for tools to decide on where to focus limited resources. This article provides guidance to those desiring to efficiently implement and manage their LCA function. Although it is based on the Covestro authors’ experience in conducting LCAs for manufactured products, the approach outlined also can be used for establishing an effective LCA process in organizations that provide services. The article also provides practical tips for applying LCA to the real business world.

LCA example for polyiso insulation

A detailed poster prepared by Covestro represents the complete life cycle of polyiso insulation — from manufacturing the raw material to produce insulation product, all the way to the disposal of the material at the end of the product's useful life. This poster illustrates the energy saving and emissions reduction potential of polyisocyanurate (polyiso) insulation. Rigorous Whole Building Energy Analysis based on the US DOE EnergyPlus simulation program were applied to estimate energy savings and GWP emissions prevented during the use phase.

Integrated whole building simulation is essential for modeling realistic energy consumption. ASHRAE 90.1 Appendix G procedures were followed to provide credible data on energy consumption comparisons.

LCA for spray foam insulation

This study is the first comprehensive life cycle assessment (LCA) of Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) insulation conducted in North America, and covers primary energy from non-renewable resources, plus five environmental impacts related to air/water emission. This LCA improves understanding of environmental impacts across the life cycle, demonstrates the benefits of SPF insulation using a rigorous assessment methodology, and provides publicly available industry averages for SPF products.

The environmental, social and economic aspects of spray polyurethane foam, which are often called the “three pillars” of sustainability, are discussed in Covestro's Foam Book Volume 4. This publication also illustrates how SPF products contribute to Covestro’s Sustainable Development Program.

LCA for composite windows

This study compares the energy consumption and four environmental impacts associated with the life cycle phases (cradle to gate plus end-of-life) of two types of window systems: GThurm® fiberglass reinforced polyurethane window vs. conventional aluminum window. Based on a 30-inch by 60-inch window frame including glass, the GThurm® window has significant advantages over the aluminum window with respect to embodied energy and environmental impacts. This study passed a thorough critical review based on ISO14040/14044.

LCA for composite shipping container flooring

This is a cradle to end-of-life life cycle assessment (LCA) of EKO-FLOR™ vs. plywood and bamboo-wood container floors, comparing energy consumption, Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) and land occupation associated with the life cycle of these floors. Two ship capacities (6,000 and 12,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) are compared between EKO-FLOR™ and the alternative floors. The results show that EKO-FLOR™ has advantages in all three categories compared based on current assumptions. A statistical analysis has been done to address the uncertainties in floor weight and shipping transportation distance. This study passed a thorough critical review based on ISO14040/14044. A summary of the study is available, along with a more detailed version (originally published in the August/September issue of PU Magazine).

LCA for particle board: UF vs. MDI as the binding agent

Particle board is widely used as a building material component and in furniture, as its durability, strength and cost make it desirable for many applications. Particle board is made primarily by pressing wood chips or sawdust together with a binding agent to keep the wood particles together.

The widely used conventional binding agent is Urea Formaldehyde (UF). The use of other substances as binding agent, such as 4, 4'-diphenylmethane diisocyanate (MDI), can have lower impacts to the environment. This study and corresponding poster use the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology to compare potential environmental impacts associated with particle board manufactured using UF versus MDI binding agents.