Course syllabus

This course will be held on campus, but we will keep the option to join lectures online, i.e. the regular course lectures will be in the hybrid format, or online only. The lectures will also be recorded. We have also kept a few elements from the fully online version of the course. Elements of the course related to this are highlighted (in red) in the syllabus.


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method for the assessment of the environmental impacts of products and services. The approach is holistic and applies a systems perspective, which means that different impacts on resources, human health and ecosystems that occur throughout the production, use and disposal of a product or service are addressed. This course in Life Cycle Assessment is one of several courses in various fields of environmental systems analysis offered by the division of Environmental Systems Analysis (ESA), Department of Technology Management and Economics, in master’s programs at Chalmers.

The teachers in the course are:

Matty Janssen (MJ), associate professor Responsible teacher, lecturer, software exercise, examiner 031-772 86 02
Carla R.V. Coelho (CRV), post-doc Project supervisor 031-772 13 61
Sahar Safarianbana (SS), post-doc Project supervisor 031-772 15 99
Tomas Ekvall (TE), adjunct professor Project supervisor
Rahul Aggarwal (RA), PhD student Project supervisor 031-772 46 43
Evelina Nyqvist (EN), PhD student Project supervisor 031 772 40 39
Agnes Tunstad (AT), PhD student Project supervisor -

In addition, the following guests are giving lectures during the course: 

  • Christel Cederberg (CC), Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers
  • Daniel Böckin (DB), Miljögiraff (consultancy)
  • Sara Heimersson (SH), Essity (industry)


1. Course content and goals 

The LCA methodology draws upon several sciences: engineering, natural and social science. The life cycle perspective comprises raw material acquisition, production processes, use and waste treatment, as well as transport between them (processes from cradle to grave). An LCA study is based on calculations of the environmental impact associated with a product or service, and includes extended interpretation of all necessary steps to achieve this. This includes inventory analysis (data collection and quantification of all resources used and emissions released), life cycle impact assessment (“translation” of the results into metrics for environmental impact), drawing conclusions from the results, as well as assessment of the reliability and limitations of the study. The course also includes application of LCA in different industrial sectors (chemical, manufacturing, food, building, etc.), and the use of LCA for different applications both in industry (e.g. product development, production processes) and society (e.g. policy applications). 
After completion of this course, you should be able to:

  • Describe the concept of life cycle assessment and the building blocks: goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, life cycle impact assessment and interpretation.
  • Describe the limitations of the approach and requirements for carrying out an LCA.
  • Explain different fields of application of LCA and argue for methodological choices relevant for these different fields.
  • Critically review an LCA study conducted by others: check assumptions and methodological choices and discuss their appropriateness.
  • Conduct a life cycle assessment and report it in a transparent way. This will be trained in a course project, and you will learn to establish a system model, collect data, calculate the results, and interpret and evaluate them.


2. Organization of the course

The course consists of lectures (in hybrid format) with smaller exercises integrated and a group project assignment (interaction with your project supervisor can take place online or on-campus). The lectures present the LCA methodology and describe different fields of application. The exercises and the project assignment aim to give a deeper understanding, train skills and give experience in using LCA as a tool. In addition, an introduction to LCA software is given. 

Lectures: The introductory lectures present the LCA methodology and aim to give a theoretical basis for applying LCA. Subsequent lectures cover the application of LCA, focusing on using LCA for different industrial applications. Some of them provide examples of LCA in current industrial practice as presented by guest lecturers from industry and academia. All lectures, including the guest lectures, are included in the course examination material.

Exercises: Some exercises are integrated into the lectures and aim at giving a deeper understanding of specific topics presented during the lectures. The exercise B “Goal and Scope Definition” is a practical journey through the methodological intricacies of LCA. The exercise C “Beginner’s Introduction to LCA” is a direct preparation for the project task and leads you through the steps of conducting an LCA. Attendance to exercises B and C is highly recommended. These exercises can be done on-campus in groups, or you can collaborate online in groups. Groups of 2-3 students functions well. These exercises will be concluded with an approx. 1-hour discussion about their solutions. This discussion will be in hybrid format and recorded. The LCA software exercise is a hands-on introduction to an LCA software package (openLCA), and consists of two sessions. Attendance to the software exercise is compulsory. When unable to attend one of the sessions, the session leader (MJ) needs to be informed in advance with a valid excuse. We will provide more details during the course how the software exercise is implemented in hybrid format. 

Group project assignment: The task for the project is to conduct and report an LCA. The main purpose of the project is to provide you practical experience, which, in a learning-by-doing mode, will teach you to carry out an LCA study. The project is concluded by a small critical review of a peer group’s report to practice the ability to read and critically reflect upon LCA. The project is carried out in groups of students. See section 4 of this syllabus for more details.


3. Literature 


Baumann, Henrikke & Tillman, Anne-Marie, 2004. The Hitch hiker’s Guide to LCA – An orientation in life cycle assessment methodology and application, Studentlitteratur, Lund.

You are expected to bring the book to the lectures already in week 1 since it is needed for several of the exercises that are integrated in the lectures. The book is available at on-line bookshops and the Chalmers Store.

Available through course homepage or Chalmers library: 

  1. Lecture slides (including guest lecturers) Available under Modules
  2. Margni, M, Curran, MA (2012). Life Cycle Impact Assessment. In: Curran, MA (ed.) (2012): Life cycle assessment handbook, pp. 67-103. Beverly 2012.
  3. Curran, MA (2012). Sourcing Lifecycle Inventory Data. In: Curran, MA (ed.) (2012): Life cycle assessment handbook, pp. 105-141. Beverly 2012.
  4. Ciroth, A (2012): Software for Life Cycle Assessment. In: Curran, MA (ed.) (2012): Lifecycle assessment handbook pp. 143-158. Beverly 2012.
  5. Hellweg, S and Milà i Canals, L (2014). Emerging approaches, challenges and opportunities in life cycle assessment. Science, 344(6188): 1109-1113.
  6. Janssen, M., Xiros, C and Tillman, A-M. (2016). Life cycle impacts of ethanol production from spruce wood chips under high-gravity conditions. Biotechnology for Biofuels, 9: 53.
  7. Arvidsson, R., A.-M. Tillman, B. A. Sandén, M. Janssen, A. Nordelöf, D. Kushnir, and S. Molander. 2018. Environmental Assessment of Emerging Technologies: Recommendations for Prospective LCA. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 22(6): 1286-1294.

Note that all parts of the course literature, including guest lecture slides, and material available from the course homepage (with exception of example LCA studies) or Chalmers library are included in the course examination material and may thus be the subject of questions in the final exam. What course literature goes with what lecture is shown in the schedule.

Additional material for further (non-compulsory) reading may be handed out during the course and/or be downloaded from the course homepage. Finally, there are example life cycle assessments (articles or reports) available on the course homepage in the “Example LCAs” folder. 


4. The group project assignment

The LCA methodology can be applied to a wide range of products and services. The LCA course is part of several Master programs and usually attracts students from a variety of backgrounds, mostly engineering and natural sciences: Industrial Ecology; Electric Power Engineering; Product Development; Electrical Engineering; and Sustainable Energy Systems. Diversity in student background is a true asset and a challenge in a multi-disciplinary course such as this one, enhancing the quality of projects and opportunities for peer tutoring. 

Group work: The project is conducted in groups of 5 students. You will form groups yourselves, but the teachers will ensure that everybody is part of a group. Once you have formed a group, please send an e-mail with the list of students in your group to Matty Janssen (e-mail address above). Please contact us when you have not found others to form a group with. Although the project work will formally start in week 2 of the course, we urge you to start forming groups already during week 1 of the course. The task of the group is to conduct an LCA study, and to write a report and to do an oral presentation about it. In addition, each group will critically review the report of another group. 

Project cases: The cases used in the project can be found in the course book “The Hitch Hiker’s guide to LCA – An orientation in life cycle assessment methodology and application”, Exercise H. Each group will be assigned a project case by the course staff. 

Data collection: Since collecting data for a complete LCA is too time consuming for the project, most of the data needed are provided in the textbook, to include some generic inventory and impact assessment data (see book appendices; some data to be provided in Excel document format on Canvas). However, to provide you some experience in data collection, all groups are required to collect “new” data from external sources, for at least one of the processes in the life cycle. This data set needs to be documented in a transparent manner and be referenced in the reference list of the project report. 

Data analysis: To guarantee a high degree of transparency in the involved calculations, these must be done in a spreadsheet (e.g. MS Excel). LCA software can be used as a complement if desired, but this is not mandatory.

Project supervision and feedback: To keep student groups on track, and help guide their work, the groups will be required to hand-in preliminary parts of their reports during the course via hand-ins 1 to 3. Hand-ins 4 and 5, the final report and a recorded oral presentation, and Hand-in 6, the critical review of another group’s report, are final and the grading assessment is based on them. Due dates for hand-ins are listed in the table below and can also be found in the course schedule.

Hand-in 1, on course homepage First draft of the goal and scope definition, including first draft flowchart, start with system equations. Time plan and task assignment. Questions to discuss Sun 3/4
Hand-in 2, on course homepage Written goal and scope definition, plan of implementation for the full LCA, report outline, system equations and start of calculations, questions for discussion Sun 10/4
Hand-in 3, on course homepage Draft report, any questions you may have Wed 4/5
Hand-in 4, on course homepage Final report Sun 15/5
Hand-in 5, on course homepage Oral presentation. 
You must record and submit a video of a 10-minute long presentation about your project. More details will be provided during the course how you should do this.
Tue 17/5
Hand-in 6, on course homepage Critical peer review Wed 18/5

Groups will be given feedback on the hand-ins at scheduled consultation occasions. This can be done online or on-campus. The project groups need to agree on this with their project supervisor according to group members’ and supervisor’s preference. The groups will discuss the project with their supervisors. As a preparation to these occasions, the groups are required to prepare questions and comments on difficulties with the project.

The critical review of another group’s report needs to be done according to the instructions in Exercise G in the course textbook.

All assignments need to be handed in via the course homepage on Canvas. The final report needs to be delivered as one single readable file (.pdf, .doc or .docx). Please use a file name that includes the group number and the project name. Please also ensure that the names of all group members appear on the report. The reports will be archived at the department. 

The final project report must include: 

Complete LCA All steps in the LCA need to be conducted and reported, including: goal & scope definition, inventory analysis, impact assessment and interpretation of results. The report must include conclusions. The report also needs to include a discussion about how the stakeholders, the actors in the studied system, might react to, or be affected by, the conclusions and recommendations of the study.
New data The new data collected by the group need to be reported as part of the inventory section in a transparent way.
System equations System equations need to be solved explicitly.
Transparency Transparency is an overall requirement for the report. This means that: (1) input data are presented with references, (2) the written text and the calculations are logical and easy to follow, and (3) the calculations and the logic behind them are described in words. 

The project reports will be graded on a scale from 3 to 5. The teachers’ assessment will focus on coverage of the items listed above, the methods used to perform the task and on the transparency of the report, but formal errors and calculation errors will also be addressed. In addition to the general quality of the report, emphasis will be put on the extent to which the results have been analyzed and the quality of that analysis. Only those reports that do not fulfill the requirements (i.e. those with a grade < 3) will be returned for corrections. This means that Hand-in 4 is the final version upon which the grading will be done. 

The projects will also be reported in a video recording of the presentation (hand-in 5) which will also be considered in the project grade. The last hand-in (hand-in 6), a short critical review of another group’s report, will also be considered in the project grade. 


5. Course requirements and examination 

The following is required to pass the course: 

Project Hand-in of preliminary parts of the project report
  • Hand-in 1. First draft of goal and scope definition, including first draft flowchart. Time plan and task assignment. Questions to discuss.
  • Hand-in 2. Written goal and scope definition, plan of implementation for the full LCA, report outline, questions to discuss.
  • Hand-in 3. Draft report, any questions you may have.

Hand-in 4. Final report

Hand-in 5. Recorded oral presentation of project

Hand-in 6. Written critical peer review

Software exercise Attendance compulsory
Exam Written final exam


The project work examines the students’ methodological understanding of LCA and practical ability to conduct an LCA study. The written final exam examines the full content of the course, including methodology, practical abilities and the application of LCA. Attendance to the software exercises is compulsory. When unable to attend one of the sessions, the session leader (MJ) needs to be informed in advance with a valid excuse.

The written exam, project report, recorded oral presentation and written critical peer review will be graded from 3 to 5. To pass the course all these must have a grade of at least 3. The grades of the written exam, project report and recorded oral presentation will be weighted together, with 60% given to the exam grade and 40% to the project grade (report, oral presentation and critical review). Note that the grading of the project is based on the group performance whereas the exam is based on the individual student performance. PhD students must have a grade of at least 4 for all three items (exam, project report and oral presentation) to pass the course.

Exam dates 
The written exam will take place on June 2nd, 2022, from 8.30 to 12.30.


6. Updated course information 

The website for the course can be found on Canvas and will be the communication platform throughout the course. Students are required to regularly check the website for news and messages about the course. 


7. Course evaluation 

There will be two meetings with student representatives during the course and one after the course.

For the final course evaluation, we use a web-based survey. Please fill out the survey! Your constructive comments are valuable for us to continuously develop and improve the course!


8. Schedule

Date Time Room Teacher Content Literature*
Study week 1 (week 12)
Tue 22/3 08.00-08.45 HC3 CRV, SS, MJ, RA, EN, AT, MJ Course introduction
09.00-11.45 MJ LCA in a nutshell Ch 1-2
Hellweg & Milà i Canals (2014)
Wed 23/3 08.00-09.45 HA4 MJ Goal and scope definition Ch 3
Exercise A
Fri 25/3 08.00-11.45 HA3 MJ Goal and scope definition
Exercise B
Exercise B
Study week 2 (week 13)
Tue 29/3 08.00-09.45 HC2 MJ Introduction to projects
Time for work on hand-in 1
Exercise H
10.00-11.45 Inventory analysis Ch. 4

Wed 30/3

08.00-09.45 HA3 MJ Life cycle impact assessment: basic principle Ch 5.1-5.3;
Margni & Curran (2012), 4.4-4.7
Fri 1/4 08.00-09.45 HA3 MJ Inventory analysis: exercise on allocation
Introduction to exercise C “Beginner’s introduction to LCA”
Exercise C
10.00-11.45 Beginner’s introduction to LCA; Exercise C Exercise C
Sun 3/4 24.00 (midnight) Hand-in 1, on course web page
First draft goal and scope definition, including first draft flowchart. Time plan and task assignment. Questions to discuss
Study week 3 (week 14)
Tue 5/4 08.00-09.45 HA3 CRV, SS, RA, TE, EN, AT Consultation on Hand-in 1 Time to work on Hand-in 2
10.00-11.45 MJ Life cycle impact assessment: advanced examples Ch 5.1-5.3;
Margni & Curran (2012), 4.4-4.7
Fri 8/4 08.00-09.45 HA3 MJ Analysis of LCA results and Critical Review Ch 6-7
10.00-11.45 Data management and LCA software Curran (2012) and Ciroth (2012)
Su 10/4 24.00 (midnight) Hand-in 2, on course web page
Written goal and scope definition, plan of implementation for the full LCA, report out-line, questions to discuss
Re-exam days (week 15) + Easter weekend
Study week 4 (week 16)
Wed 20/4 08.00-09.45 ML13, ML14 CRV, SS, RA, TE, EN, AT Consultation on Hand-in 2 Time to work on Hand-in 3
Fri 22/4 08.00-09.45 HA3 MJ Life cycle assessment of production processes Ch. 11; Janssen et al. (2016)
10.00-11.45 DB LCA in consultancy + business model LCA -
Study week 5 (week 17)
Tue 26/4 08.00-10.30 E-studion MJ Software exercise I
Wed 27/4 08.00-09.45 SB-M500 MJ Prospective LCA Arvidsson et al. (2018)
Study week 6 (week 18)
Tue 3/5 08.00-10.30 E-studion MJ Software exercise II
Wed 4/5 08.00-09.45 HA3 SH LCA in industry - the case of Essity -
12.00 (noon) Hand-in 3, on course web page
Draft of full report, any questions you may have.
Fri 6/5 08.00-11.45 HA3 CRV, SS, RA, TE, EN, AT Consultation on hand-in 3
Time to work on Hand-in 4, supervisors available upon request
Study week 7 (week 19)
Wed 11/5 08.00-09.45 ML13, ML14 CRV, SS, RA, TE, EN, AT Time for project work in groups: Supervisors available – ad-hoc consultation
Fri 13/5 08.00-09.45 HC1 MJ Life cycle thinking and public policy -
10.00-11.45 CC Life cycle impact assessment and food production -
Sun 15/5 24.00 Hand-in 4, on course web page
Study week 8 (week 20)
Tue 17/5 24.00 (midnight)  Hand-in 5, on course web page
Recorded oral presentation
Wed 18/5 08.00-09.45 HA3 SH LCA in industry - the case of Essity rescheduled from May 4th
24.00 (midnight)  Hand-in 6, on course web page
Critical peer review
Fri 20/5 10.00-11.45 HC1 MJ LCA exercises -
Study week 9 (week 21)
Mon 30/5 17.00  Assessment and grade on group project assignment, received via e-mail
Week 22
Thu 2/6 08.30-12.30 EXAM

* If not otherwise stated, reading instructions refer to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to LCA