A Methodology for Robust Comparative Life Cycle Assessments Incorporating Uncertainty. Academic Article uri icon


  • We propose a methodology for conducting robust comparative life cycle assessments (LCA) by leveraging uncertainty. The method evaluates a broad range of the possible scenario space in a probabilistic fashion while simultaneously considering uncertainty in input data. The method is intended to ascertain which scenarios have a definitive environmentally preferable choice among the alternatives being compared and the significance of the differences given uncertainty in the parameters, which parameters have the most influence on this difference, and how we can identify the resolvable scenarios (where one alternative in the comparison has a clearly lower environmental impact). This is accomplished via an aggregated probabilistic scenario-aware analysis, followed by an assessment of which scenarios have resolvable alternatives. Decision-tree partitioning algorithms are used to isolate meaningful scenario groups. In instances where the alternatives cannot be resolved for scenarios of interest, influential parameters are identified using sensitivity analysis. If those parameters can be refined, the process can be iterated using the refined parameters. We also present definitions of uncertainty quantities that have not been applied in the field of LCA and approaches for characterizing uncertainty in those quantities. We then demonstrate the methodology through a case study of pavements.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

author list (cited authors)

  • Gregory, J. R., Noshadravan, A., Olivetti, E. A., & Kirchain, R. E.

citation count

  • 48

complete list of authors

  • Gregory, Jeremy R||Noshadravan, Arash||Olivetti, Elsa A||Kirchain, Randolph E

publication date

  • June 2016