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Unit of study_

PHYS5034: Life Cycle Analysis

Semester 2, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

This unit of study covers philosophy, techniques, applications and standards of Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA). It introduces methods from engineering (Process Analysis) and economics (Input-Output Analysis), and discusses current popular LCA tools. The unit places importance on practical relevance by including real-world case studies and business applications as well as global standards such as the GHG Protocol for accounting for scopes -1, -2 and -3 emissions and ISO standards. The unit of study will culminate with practical exercises using software tools to provide students with hands-on experience of preparing a comprehensive Life-Cycle Assessment of an application of their choice. Students will also benefit from enrolling in PHYS5033 for a sound understanding of input-output analysis as the basis of hybrid LCA methods.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PHYS5034
Academic unit Physics Academic Operations
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Fabian Sack,
Lecturer(s) Fabian Sack,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation Presentation
Oral presentation
20% Multiple weeks 5 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO7 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3 LO2
Assignment Assignment 1
Written assignment
40% Week 07
Due date: 17 Sep 2023 at 23:59
8-12 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Assignment Assignment 2
Written assignment
40% Week 13
Due date: 05 Nov 2023 at 23:59
8-12 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 What is Life Cycle Assessment? Tutorial: Define / create your own LCA No seminar presentations, only tutorial Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 02 Introduction to LCA standards. No seminar presentations, only tutorial Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 03 Process LCA 1: Goal and scope; Life cycle inventories. No seminar presentations, only tutorial Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 04 Process LCA 2: Data quality; Details on the multi-function issue. No seminar presentations, only tutorial Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 05 Process LCA 3: Impact assessment and indicators. Panel discussion: Importance of LCA standards Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 06 Process LCA 4: Interpretation and uncertainties. Panel discussion: LCA applications – food industry and agriculture Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 07 The use of process LCA in Australian Industry – Guest lecturer (TBA) Panel discussion: LCA applications – building products and construction industry Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 08 Social Life Cycle Assessment. Panel discussion: LCA applications – manufacturing industry Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 09 Boundary selection and truncation errors. Panel discussion: LCA applications – energy and water systems (including renewable energy and desalination) Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 10 Introduction to hybrid LCA. Guest Lecture. Panel discussion: LCA applications – Health sector Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 11 Embodied Carbon Explorer Tool I: Guest Lecture. Panel discussion: LCA applications – waste and recycling Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 12 Embodied Carbon Explorer Tool II: Guest Lecture. Panel discussion: Panel discussion: LCA applications – Social LCA Lecture and tutorial (2.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Week 13 Case study of LCA in industry (Site Visit TBA). Lecture (1.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7

Attendance and class requirements

This class consists of a lecture and a tutorial. Until Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted the lectures and tutorials will take place on-line via zoom at 4pm to 5pm on Tuesdays. Attendance is required.

The zoom link will provided on the Canvas site. Two tutorial times are available, 3pm to 4pm and 5pm to 6pm Tuesdays. From week 4 the tutorials will be dedicated to student seminar presentations and a panel discussion.

Details on booking tuturial times and seminar topics are on Canvas.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

ISO 14040:2006 Environmental management. Life cycle assessment. Principles and framework.

ISO 14044:2006
Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Requirements and guidelines.

Available on e-reserve.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. be aware of the importance of calculations and techniques for understanding sustainability issues
  • LO2. understand the principles of common life cycle analysis techniques
  • LO3. critically appraise the place of process, IO and hybrid analysis in undertaking LCAs
  • LO4. make sensible connections between contexts, techniques, data, results, meanings and qualitative analysis
  • LO5. demonstrate critical thinking about LCA theory and practice
  • LO6. apply the LCA techniques to practical sustainability issues in the tutorials
  • LO7. argue and present coherently for a particular LCA point of view, backed up by analysis.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Unit to be offered online in response to Covid 19 restrictions. Move to separate tutorial and lecture format to accommodate growing student numbers.

Work, health and safety

There are no specific WHS requirements for this unit.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.