Course Descriptions
MECH_ENG 367: Life Cycle Assessment

Quarter Offered

Spring : TTh TBD ; E. Masanet


ME 220/ CHEM ENG 211 (Thermodynamics); Gen Eng 205 1, 2, 3, and 4 (Engineering Analysis) or instructor consent


lc changesOverview of the life-cycle analysis (LCA) framework for environmental assessment of technology systems, with a focus on modeling methods for systems mass and energy flows, process- and input-output-based systems inventories, multi-scale environmental impact analysis, and life-cycle systems improvements.

Who Takes It

Students interested in quantitative techniques for assessing the sustainability of technology systems from multiple environmental perspectives (e.g., energy use, air and water pollution, resource depletion, climate change, and water use) and in applying these techniques to enable greener designs, manufacturing systems, and public policies.  Students typically take this class in their junior or senior years.

What It's About

This course provides a comprehensive overview of LCA theory and analysis approaches, and thereby introduces students to the state-of-the-art method for assessing and reducing the environmental impacts of product, process, and technology systems.  An emphasis is placed on rigorous quantitative methods in LCA.  The course starts with system boundary and functional unit design approaches, and then covers both process-based and input-output-based methods for modeling mass and energy flows in life-cycle systems.  Students will then learn modeling techniques for estimating relevant environmental impacts of these systems over different scales of time and space.  The course concludes with an overview of life-cycle systems improvement analyses and approaches for effective result interpretation and action in an engineering context.


impact assessmentThe course meets two days per week, with video lectures and online exercises required outside of class.  A significant amount of in-class time will be spent on model building for student projects aimed at answering campus sustainability questions.


  • The role of LCA in green design, manufacturing, and public policies
  • LCA goal and scope definitiono Issues and challenges in system boundary selectiono Robust functional unit designo Role of intended purpose and audience
  • Life-cycle inventory methodso Process-based mass and energy flow modelingo Input-output methods in LCIo Circularities and allocation methods
  • Life-cycle impact characterization
    • Fate, transport, and exposure modeling
    • Impact characterization approaches by issue
  • Life-cycle interpretation 
    • Uncertainty and sensitivity analysis techniques
  • Life-cycle systems improvement
    • Green design approaches
    • Green manufacturing approaches
    • Techno-economic potentials modeling


Bi-weekly homework assignments and a term project.