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Review

The Future of Ex-Ante LCA? Lessons Learned and Practical Recommendations

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Energy and Materials in Infrastructure and Buildings (EMIB), University of Antwerp, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium
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Unit Sustainable Materials Management, Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), 2400 Mol, Belgium
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Biochemical Green Engineering & Materials (BioGEM), University of Antwerp, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium
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Department of Engineering Management, University of Antwerp, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2019, 11(19), 5456; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195456
Received: 28 August 2019 / Revised: 24 September 2019 / Accepted: 24 September 2019 / Published: 1 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Uncertainty in Prospective Sustainability Assessment)
Every decision-oriented life cycle assessment (LCAs) entails, at least to some extent, a future-oriented feature. However, apart from the ex-ante LCAs, the majority of LCA studies are retrospective in nature and do not explicitly account for possible future effects. In this review a generic theoretical framework is proposed as a guideline for ex-ante LCA. This framework includes the entire technology life cycle, from the early design phase up to continuous improvements of mature technologies, including their market penetration. The compatibility with commonly applied system models yields an additional aspect of the framework. Practical methods and procedures are categorised, based on how they incorporate future-oriented features in LCA. The results indicate that most of the ex-ante LCAs focus on emerging technologies that have already gone through some research cycles within narrowly defined system boundaries. There is a lack of attention given to technologies that are at a very early development stage, when all options are still open and can be explored at a low cost. It is also acknowledged that technological learning impacts the financial and environmental performance of mature production systems. Once technologies are entering the market, shifts in market composition can lead to substantial changes in environmental performance. View Full-Text
Keywords: ex-ante life cycle assessment; emerging technology; technological learning; technology diffusion; review; case study; theoretical framework ex-ante life cycle assessment; emerging technology; technological learning; technology diffusion; review; case study; theoretical framework
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MDPI and ACS Style

Buyle, M.; Audenaert, A.; Billen, P.; Boonen, K.; Van Passel, S. The Future of Ex-Ante LCA? Lessons Learned and Practical Recommendations. Sustainability 2019, 11, 5456. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195456

AMA Style

Buyle M, Audenaert A, Billen P, Boonen K, Van Passel S. The Future of Ex-Ante LCA? Lessons Learned and Practical Recommendations. Sustainability. 2019; 11(19):5456. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195456

Chicago/Turabian Style

Buyle, Matthias, Amaryllis Audenaert, Pieter Billen, Katrien Boonen, and Steven Van Passel. 2019. "The Future of Ex-Ante LCA? Lessons Learned and Practical Recommendations" Sustainability 11, no. 19: 5456. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11195456

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