Ways to get work done: a review and systematisation of simplification practices in the LCA literature
Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift, 2020

Within the field of life cycle assessment (LCA), simplifications are a response to the practical restrictions in the context of a study. In the 1990s, simplifications were part of a debate on streamlining within LCA. Since then, many studies have been published on simplifying LCA but with little attention to systematise the approaches available. Also, despite being pervasive during the making of LCA studies, simplifications remain often invisible in the final results. This paper therefore reviews the literature on simplification in LCA in order to systematise the approaches found today.

A review of the LCA simplification literature was conducted. The systematic search and selection process led to a sample of 166 publications. During the review phase, the conceptual contributions to the simplification discourse were evaluated. A dataset of 163 entries was created, listing the conceptual contributions to the simplification debate. An empirically grounded analysis led to the generative development of a systematisation of simplifications according to their underlying simplifying logic.

Results and discussion
Five simplifying logics were identified: exclusion, inventory data substitution, qualitative expert judgment, standardisation and automation. Together, these simplifying logics inform 13 simplification strategies. The identified logics represent approaches to handle the complexities of product systems and expectations of the users of LCA results with the resources available to the analyst. Each simplification strategy is discussed with regard to its main applications and challenges.

This paper provides a first systematisation of the different simplification logics frequently applied in LCA since the original streamlining discussion. The presented terminology can help making communication about simplification more explicit and transparent, thus important for the credibility of LCA. Despite the pervasiveness of simplification in LCA, there is a relative lack of research on simplification per se, making further research describing simplification as a practice and analysing simplifications methodologically desirable.


Simplified LCA

data substitution

expert judgment






Sjouke Beemsterboer

Chalmers, Arkitektur och samhällsbyggnadsteknik, Byggnadsteknologi

Henrikke Baumann

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Miljösystemanalys

Holger Wallbaum

Chalmers, Arkitektur och samhällsbyggnadsteknik, Byggnadsteknologi

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

0948-3349 (ISSN)

Vol. 25 11 2154-2168

Förenklad livscykelanalys för flerbostadshus och kontorsbyggnader i Sverige

Svenska Byggbranschens Utvecklingsfond (SBUF), 2016-10-15 -- 2018-12-31.


Annan naturresursteknik

Miljöanalys och bygginformationsteknik




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