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Institut for Planlægning

institut for Planlægning

PhD defence by Anne Rønning

Travels with LCA - The evolution of LCA in the construction sector


19.12.2017 kl. 12.30 - 15.30


This thesis analyses how Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as a ‘global concept’ in environmental work has evolved through a period of approximately 25 years. Based upon theories on environmental problems as an example of ‘wicked problems’ and LCA as an ‘institutional global standard’, the main research question is: What has characterised the evolution of LCA as an analytical tool in the construction sector?

Within the frames of this main question, three research questions are formulated:
1. How has LCA been subject to changes related to new knowledge during the years it has been used in the construcEon sector?
2. How has LCA as analyEcal tool been linked to other relevant analyEcal tools?
3. How have the dynamics between different actors involved developed in the studied period?

The journey reported from in this thesis, illustrates that the definiEon of environmental problems is not static, but continuously changing. These changes are reflected in a number of developments related to how new knowledge(s), new links to other environmental tools and new actors have been involved. The thesis emphasises the ambiguiEes and conflicts the making of LCA as an environmental tool has been object to in the construction sector. These features are explained as expressions of the very nature of environmental problems as ‘wicked problems’. In accordance with this, the evolvement of LCA is understood as ‘taming processes’. By means of technical measures environmental problems related to the construction sector have been framed, mainly by means of standardisaEon. The making of these standardizaEon processes is discussed as “de-contextualisaEon”, these processes are referred to as designing ‘global insEtuEonal standards’. In accordance with theories on how such standards are constructed, applied, adjusted and re-constructed, the changes taking place regarding standards for LCA and EPDs are scruEnized.

The overall finding is that the evolvement of LCA as a global concept happens through dynamics between concerns with how to make the analyses scienEfically credible on one side, and pracEcal manageable on the other side. ScienEfic credibility has driven LCA to become more complex, while the quest for manageability drives LCA towards simplificaEons in its applicaEons. The tension between these concerns seems to be an important feature in LCA presently and in the future. The scope of analysis in LCA tools has expanded from products to buildings, there is a likeliness that in the near future, an even broader perspecEve on ’context” will come. Here, a ‘systems’ approach – where for instance local community/social issues - will be included.

assessment committee

Associate Professor PhD Søren Kerndrup (Chairman), Aalborg University

Associate Professor PhD Christofer Skaar , Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Professor Dr. Helge Bra@ebø, Norwegian University of Science and Technology


Professor Arne Remmen, Department of Planning, Aalborg University


Associate Professor Me@e Mosgaard, Department of Planning, Aalborg University, Denmark


Department of Planning will host a reception after the defence. Please sign up for this event no later than December 14th at 12.00 in this link


Free of charge


Department of Planning


Rendsburggade 14, room 3/3.429, 9000 Aalborg

Tilmelding inden

14.12.2017 kl. 12.00

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