Preface—a new paradigm for life cycle thinking: exploring sustainability in urban development scenarios

  • Giuseppe Ioppolo
  • Marzia TraversoEmail author
  • Matthias Finkbeiner



The main goal of this special issue is to further the understanding of how to integrate life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) methods and tools in the urban planning process. It is a relatively new and interdisciplinary topic that supports the integration of life cycle assessment techniques and expertise in urban planning and designing procedures such as strategic environmental assessment (SEA).


Starting with life cycle thinking, the integration of the environmental life cycle assessment, and also its implementation to assess economic (life cycle costing), and social impacts (social life cycle assessment) with other planning and designing methods and tools to the urban context have been analyzed and implemented in some case studies. Examples of planning and designing methods considered are urban metabolism, strategic environmental assessment, and multi-criteria decision analysis.

Results and conclusions

Ten contributions draw a clear picture on the current state of the art and present gaps and further developments necessary to build a complete and harmonized framework. It is evident that the variability of methodology and expertise involved in this multidisciplinary approach is very high, and that it is very important to support its further implementation to cover the current gaps. An interdisciplinary and harmonized framework and further implementation in three dimensions of sustainability are two examples of desirable future developments that were identified.


City management Life cycle assessment Life cycle thinking Urban planning Urban sustainability 



  1. Björklund A (2012) Life cycle assessment as an analytical tool in strategic environmental assessment. Lessons learned from a case study on municipal energy planning in Sweden. Environ Impact Assess Rev 32(1):82–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bonato D (2017) Ripensare la città. L’economia circolare nei contesti urbani. In Accessed Nov. 2018
  3. Börjeson L, Höjer M, Dreborg K-H, Ekvall T, Finnveden G (2006) Scenario types and techniques e towards a user’s guide. Futures 38(7):723–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Borrion A, Matsushita J, Austen K, Johnson C, Bell S (2019) Development of LCA Calculator to support community infrastructure co-design. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  5. De Benedetto L, Klemes J (2009) The environmental performance strategy map: an integrated LCA approach to support the strategic decision-making process. J Clean Prod 17:900–906CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. De Laurentiis V, Hunt DVL, Lee SE, Rogers CDF (2019) EATS: a life cycle-based decision support tool for local authorities and school caterers. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  7. De Ridder W, Turnpenny J, Nilsson M, von Raggamby A (2007) A framework for tool selection and use in integrated assessment for sustainable development. J Environ Assess Policy Manag 9(4):423–441CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Finkbeiner M, Inaba A, Tan R, Christiansen K, Klüppel HJ (2006) The new international standards for life cycle assessment: ISO 14040 and ISO 14044. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11:80–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Finkbeiner M, Schau E, Lehmann A, Traverso M (2010) Towards life cycle sustainability assessment. Sustainability 2(10):3309–3322 Accessed Oct 2010CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Finnveden G, Hauschild MZ, Ekvall T, Guinée J, Heijungs R, Hellweg S, Koehler A, Pennington D, Suh S (2009) Recent developments in life cycle assessment. J Environ Manag 91(1):1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Heijungs R, Huppes G, Guinée JB (2010) Life cycle assessment and sustainability analysis of products, materials and technologies. Toward a scientific framework for sustainability life cycle analysis. Polym Degrad Stab 95(3):422–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Höjer M, Ahlroth S, Dreborg K-H, Ekvall T, Finnveden G, Hjelm O, Hochschorner E, Nilsson M, Palm V (2008) Scenarios in selected tools for environmental systems analysis. J Clean Prod 16(18):1958–1970CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Huijbregts et al (2017) ReCiPe 2016 v1.1 A harmonized life cycle impact assessment method at midpoint and endpoint level Report I: Characterization. RIVM Report 2016-0104a © RIVM 2017 Accessed Nov 2018
  14. Ioppolo G, Curachi S, Salomone R, Shi L, Yigitcanlar T (2019) Integrating strategic environmental assessment and material flow accounting: a novel approach for moving towards sustainable urban futures. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  15. Ipsen KL, Zimmermann RK, Nielsen PS, Birkved M (2019) Environmental assessment of Smart City solutions using a coupled urban metabolism—life cycle impact assessment approach. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  16. Jeswani HK, Azapagic A, Schepelmann P, Ritthoff M (2010) Options for broadening and deepening the LCA approaches. J Clean Prod 18(2):120–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jones P, Tauléelo T, Kohlhase J (2002) Growing pacific town and cities: Samoa’s new planning and urban management system. Aust Plan 39(4):186–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Khorassani SM, Ferrari AM, Pini M, Settembre Blundo D, Muiña FEG, García JF et al (2019) Environmental and social impact assessment of cultural heritage restoration and its application to the Uncastillo fortress. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  19. Macombe C, Zamagni A, Traverso M (2018) Preface (of special issue on social LCA in Progress). Int J Life Cycle Assess 23(3):387–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mirabella N, Allacker K, Sala S (2019) Current trends and limitations of life cycle assessment applied to the urban scale: critical analysis and review of selected literature. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  21. Nilsson M, Björklund A, Finnveden G, Johansson J (2005) Testing an SEA methodology for the energy sector—a waste incineration tax proposal. Environ Impact Assess Rev 25(1):1–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ohms P, Andersen C, Landgren M, Birkved M (2019) Decision support for large scale remediation strategies by fused urban metabolism and life cycle assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  23. Opher T, Friedler E, Shapira A (2019) Comparative life cycle sustainability assessment of urban water reuse at various centralization scales. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  24. Qi Y, Zhang Y, Hui Jiang H, Hou H, Li J (2019) Life cycle assessment in urban territories: a case study of Dalian city, China. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  25. Simboli A, Taddeo R, Raggi A (2019) The multiple dimensions of urban contexts in an industrial ecology perspective. An integrative framework. Int J Life Cycle Assess. (this issue)
  26. Traverso M (2017) Is social life cycle assessment really struggling in development or is it on a normal path towards harmonization/standardization? Editorial. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23(2):199–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Traverso M, Finkbeiner M, Jørgensen A, Schneider L (2012) Life cycle sustainability dashboard. J Ind Ecol 16:680–688. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. UNEP/SETAC (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products. United Nations Environment ProgrammeGoogle Scholar
  29. UNEP/SETAC (2013) The methodological sheets for subcategories in social life cycle assessment (S-LCA). United Nations Environment Programme and SETACGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of MessinaMessinaItaly
  2. 2.Institute of Sustainability in Civil EngineeringRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  3. 3.Chair of Sustainable Engineering, Institute of Environmental TechnologyTechnical University BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations