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LCA data and LCA databases

Tips and expertise shared by three experienced users of LCA Databases

During the preparation of the article on LCA data and LCA databases it was a great experience to include the different perspectives on LCA data and LCA databases. Representing the perspective of data providers and their future plans Dr. Martin Baitz, Director Content at Thinkstep AG provided valuable insights for the GaBi databases and Dr. Gregor Wernet, Executive Manager at the ecoinvent Center provided valuable insights on the ecoinvent database.

The user perspective is represented by experienced LCA data users, who share their experiences, challenges and tips when using LCA databases. Thanks a lot for all your collaboration and for agreeing to publish your answers!

Enrico-Benetto-v1

 

 

Enrico BENETTO, PhD, Head of RDI Unit at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Luxembourg

 

 

What do you see as most challenging, when starting a new LCA project  in the context of data search?

LCA for ecodesign: Get reliable data for novel materials/substances (newly used or newly synthesized)
LCA for policy/decision making support: set the parameters for scenarios according to decision makers’ views

What do you value most, when using data from LCI databases?

transparency

Do you have any tips and tricks for other LCA practitioners when closing data gaps?

never stop at the first solution, always try to do better (continuous loops)

If you could make ONE wish to the LCI database providers – which one would that be?

interoperability/standardization = being able to combine/mix different databases in a proper way

Fisher Headshot B&W 2015

 

 

Angela Fisher, Sustainability Leader at the Ecoassessment Center of Excellence, General Electric Company, USA

 

 

What do you see as most challenging, when starting a new LCA project in the context of data search?

I am most challenged when an important material, system, or process in my LCI is not in the available databases or is of poor data quality (old, not regionally or technologically relevant, etc.). I prefer to begin a study by building a quick model using proxy data in order to estimate my study results, identify hot spots and data gaps, and determine areas where more primary data is necessary. If I cannot build a quick model due to large amounts of important and missing secondary data, I find that to be quite a challenge.

What do you value most, when using data from LCI databases?

I most value that the data has been peer-reviewed and vetted (in most cases) before being included in the LCI database; so I can trust the credibility of the data. I also value the ability to quickly add secondary materials into my models without having to go collect industry average information. Many times, I only need industry average, secondary data to complement my primary data, so not having to collect that information and model it for each study is very helpful. I also value the regional/geographic (and global average) options when choosing secondary (database) materials and processes.

Do you have any tips and tricks for other LCA practitioners when closing data gaps?

When I find data gaps in the LCI databases, I will try to search the literature for LCA studies that may include the LCI for the missing data. I also sometimes search the [LCA] list serves conversations to see if this specific data gap questions has been asked and answered. My next trick is to inquire with my external peers for advice on the data gaps (proxies, other sources of information, etc.).

If you could make ONE wish to the LCI database providers – which one would that be?

Sorry – more than one but I will keep it short. It would be great if database providers could fill in some missing datasets (e.g. tungsten, titanium, some additional rare / critical materials and minerals, etc.) as well as routinely reach out to dataset providers for updates to the datasets. And of course having complete, current, credible, and referenceable documentation is important (and in English would be nice) as this is often missing all together or very incomplete.

 

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Gaël FICK, researcher at IRT – m2p, Institut de Recherche Technologique – Matériaux, métallurgie et procédés, Metz, France

 

 

What do you see as most challenging, when starting a new LCA project in the context of data search?

The most challenging step is usually the data collection (life cycle inventory), the search on industrial site and questionnaire as well as the search for existing data in the databases.

What do you value most, when using data from LCI databases?

Good and comprehensive documentations on the data. Information on geographic, temporal and technical coherence have to be available as well as knowing were the data stem from and how they were built.

Do you have any tips and tricks for other LCA practitioners when closing data gaps?

No particular tips, but for closing data gaps, the first reflex is to try to find similar issues in the literature and take hypothesis accordingly. In the field we work in (mainly metal elaboration), we also regulary use the help of expert(s).

 

If you could make ONE wish to the LCI database providers – which one would that be?

Enhance documentation.

 

All photos provided by the interview partners.

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