Continued efforts to reduce the environmental impact of products and services are leading to the increased prevalence of life-cycle assessment (LCA) during the design phase. A key challenge in traditional process-based LCA is the validation of vast life-cycle inventory data, which easily numbers in the tens of thousands of data points. In this paper, we utilize an ‘object-based’ approach from software engineering to manage the large amount of data and combine this approach with simple thermodynamic principles, thus significantly reducing the chance of error in LCA inputs. The approach is demonstrated for the test case of a typical industrial air-conditioning unit. We find that implementation of the object-based approach identifies numerous potential errors in the life-cycle inventory data. Thus, the proposed approach enables the designer to perform a more robust environmental analysis of a given system. This facilitates a better identification and prioritization of opportunities for reducing the environmental footprint across the system life-cycle.

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