UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering


Developing Life Cycle Assessment tools (LCA) to support community engagement and user led innovation

Decentralised infrastructure systems are likely to be important in building urban resilience and sustainability.

1 September 2017

Decentralised systems provide new opportunities for community and local economic development that have not been seen with conventional centralised infrastructure provision. Stronger engagement between local communities and infrastructure engineers and designers can enable positive co-evolution of engineered systems and society in response to environmental and climate change. However, new tools are needed to enable stronger engagement between infrastructure engineers and designers, local communities and users.

As part of the EPSRC-funded project ‘Engineering Comes Home’, an open source LCA Calculator has been developed to create a two-way exchange between community members and infrastructure designers. This will embed end user perspectives in the design and implementation of the infrastructure they use, taking into account lifecycle impacts of technology and material options.

The LCA Calculator enables quick estimation of the impacts of new systems and technology to deliver water, energy and food (WEF), and manage waste 3 | 32 | at the household and neighbourhood scale, in a way that makes the information easy to understand and relevant to the community, while allowing infrastructure designers to better understand needs and use cases in the community.

In the next phase of our research, part of the EPSRCfunded project ‘Bottom Up Infrastructure’, we will develop LCA tools enabling quantification of the impacts and benefits of community engagement in infrastructure projects covering water, energy, food, waste and transport sectors.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodology for quantifying the environmental impacts of a product, system or service, over its entire life cycle. It was originally developed to compare the environmental performance of different products. It has evolved into a major decision support tool for engineers, designers, business and policy-makers.