Developing a decision support tool for life-cycle cost assessments


  • Keith A. Weitz,

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    • Keith A. Weitz is an environmental specialist at the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in North Carolina and has been involved in life-cycle assessment methodology development and pollution prevention research.

  • Joyce K. Smith,

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    • Joyce K. Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in Duke University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. She is also an intern at North Carolina's Department of Environment, Health, and Natural Resources Office of Waste Reduction.

  • John L. Warren

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    • John L. Warren is a senior program manager at Battelle, Pacific Northwest Laboratories in Richland, Washington, where he is conducting research in the application of industrial ecology and sustainable development principles to strategic environmental decision making.


Recent years have seen advancements in the development and use of life-cycle assessment (LCA) analytic techniques. Although these techniques have highlighted the power of LCA to identify the environmental consequences of a product system through its entire life cycle, they have also highlighted a major shortcoming of LCA—the lack of cost information. Because companies make daily decisions that involve trade-offs between economics and the environment, including cost information in LCA is critical for advancing its use as an overall environmental decision-making tool. This article outlines the current state of LCA methodology development, defines key life-cycle cost assessment terms and concepts, and evaluates existing cost assessment techniques with the objective of building an integrated life-cycle cost assessment tool.