New BIFMA Report: Life Cycle Assessment - Wonderful Tool, Use With Care
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Posted by: Tom Reardon
New Study Reveals How Different Datasets Used by LCA Software Packages Produce Varying Results;
Should Not Be Used to Compare Products
Grand Rapids, MI – A new report commissioned by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA), reveals that while life cycle analysis (LCA) software packages can be a strong mechanism for supporting sustainable buildings and products, the user must understand some basic information about the variation that can occur between LCAs performed by different companies.
“As the transparency trend gains momentum, furniture manufacturers are providing public statements of environmental information including Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). While the use of these documents can help users understand the environmental hotspots in a product’s lifecycle and the potential environmental impacts, users must be cautioned about comparing the results for products,” said Tom Reardon, executive director of BIFMA.
The study was conducted by an independent, third party evaluation of the variability in final LCA results based on reasonable assumptions that a LCA practitioner may make during the course of an assessment. The study found that variability within a single product could be significant based on key, but perfectly reasonable, variables employed by the practitioner. This conclusion suggests that comparison of products from different manufacturers is not advised.
This study provides BIFMA with the opportunity to educate its members and their customers about the potential variations in results and advocate for improvement of the data and evaluation process. BIFMA has taken a leadership position in opening up this issue to scrutiny and analysis.
And while refinement continues, the industry should continue to use product category rules (PCRs) in its life-cycle assessments while taking into consideration the fact that different software packages can and do deliver varying results.
The complete LCA technical report and executive summary are available using the links below:
BIFMA is the not-for-profit trade association for business and institutional furniture manufacturers. Since 1973, BIFMA’s role has been to sponsor the development and refining of current and future standards, educate on their importance and application, and translate their necessary complexity into more easily understood and implemented formats. BIFMA also monitors the state of the industry, serves as a forum for member cooperation and collaboration, interacts with international counterparts, and advocates for regulatory conditions that foster value and innovation.