The ecoinvent Database: Overview and Methodological Framework (7 pp)

Frischknecht, Rolf ; Jungbluth, Niels ; Althaus, Hans-Jörg ; Doka, Gabor ; Dones, Roberto ; Heck, Thomas ; Hellweg, Stefanie ; Hischier, Roland ; Nemecek, Thomas ; Rebitzer, Gerald ; Spielmann, Michael

In: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 2005, vol. 10, no. 1, p. 3-9

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    Introduction: This paper provides an overview on the content of the ecoinvent database and of selected metholodogical issues applied on the life cycle inventories implemented in the ecoinvent database. Goal, Scope and Background: In the year 2000, several Swiss Federal Offices and research institutes of the ETH domain agreed to a joint effort to harmonise and update life cycle inventory (LCI) data for its use in life cycle assessment (LCA). With the ecoinvent data-base and its actual data v1.1, a consistent set of more than 2'500 product and service LCIs is now available. Method: Nearly all process datasets are transparently documented on the level of unit process inputs and outputs. Methodological approaches have been applied consistently throughout the entire database content and thus guarantee for a coherent set of LCI data. This is particularly true for market and trade modelling (see, for example, electricity modelling), for the treatment of multi-out-put and of recycling processes, but also for the recording and reporting of elementary flows. The differentiation of diameter size for particulate matter emissions, for instance, allows for a more comprehensive impact assessment of human health effects. Data quality is quantitatively reported in terms of standard deviations of the amounts of input and output flows. In many cases qualitative indicators are reported additionally on the level of each individual input and output. The information sources used vary from extensive statistical works to individual (point) measurements or assumptions derived from process descriptions. However, all datasets passed the same quality control procedure and all information relevant and necessary to judge the suitability of a dataset in a certain context are provided in the database. Data documentation and exchange is based on the EcoSpold data format, which complies with the technical specification ISO/TS 14048. Free access to process information via the Internet helps the user to judge the appropriateness of a dataset. Concluding Remarks: The existence of the ecoinvent database proves that it is possible and feasible to build up a large interlinked system of LCI unit processes. The project work proved to be demanding in terms of co-ordination efforts required and consent identification. One main characteristic of the database is its transparency in reporting to enable individual assessment of data appropriateness and to support the plurality in methodological approaches. Outlook: Further work on the ecoinvent database may comprise work on the database content (new or more detailed data-sets covering existing or new economic sectors), LCI (modelling) methodology, the structure and features of the data-base system (e.g. extension of Monte Carlo simulation to the impact assessment phase) or improvements in eco-invent data supply and data query. Furthermore, the deepening and building up of international co-operations in LCI data collection and supply is in the focus of future activities