openLCA – the Life Cycle and Sustainability Modeling Suite
A free software for everything you need in sustainability modeling
Sustainability and Life Cycle Assessment is a wide field, and has grown from visionary concepts of Brundtland and (on a more narrow area, for LCA) SETAC. Both concepts became mainstream, with applications in policy and industry, large and small enterprises, academia and research, and not only in Europe, USA and Japan, but worldwide.
Also the indicators have expanded and “diversified”, from CO2 to Global Warming Potential to complete Life Cycle Impact Assessment methods with 15 different categories to social impacts and economic impacts.
And not the least, the conceptual frameworks for addressing Sustainability have changed and diversified. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach is standardised in ISO 14040 and 14044, and was the “master template” for other more specific standards and pre-standards (take water footprint, climate change). Apart from standards, integrated concepts such as Product Environmental Footprint, Organisational Environmental Footprint, Circular Economy, and others, are gaining more and more attention.
All the approaches have at its core a life cycle approach. We believe therefore that openLCA, with powerful and flexible ways to model life cycle systems, with the ability to calculate environmental, social and economic indicators, with plugins which are providing different more specific elements, and with its open architecture which eases import and export of data and integration in other IT landscapes, is the free and open source software for modeling the life cycle of things. For everything you need in sustainability modeling*. Find out yourself!
*to be honest: what we do not cover yet are stocks in life cycles; time; risks. But openLCA can be linked to other modeling software, or itself extended.
openLCA provides the features you expect and need for a Life Cycle Assessment software – and more. Especially some of the newer additions are – we think – unique: The ability to deal with really large systems and databases; GIS integration, several of the analysis features to drill down results and identify main drivers and impacts; fast and flexible import and export; working with social indicators also as unassessed, transparent and raw values; and also smaller features like parameters and uncertainty for characterization factors which can be really useful.
A more comprehensive overview is provided at the features page.
Apart from the more technical features, the fact that openLCA is open source is an inherent property of the software which makes its application more trustworthy, transparent, and easy.
Tailored services and databases available
A set of tailored support solutions and databases are available for openLCA; openLCA is free, some databases are free, and further support and further databases are optional. This allows combining and tailoring tool, databases, and support just as needed. Some typical packages of data and support are described here for different use cases.
We offer services such as support contracts for different purposes and for different levels of expertise to make sure you get the support you need. A wide variety of databases is available to use as background data for your LCA and sustainability study. Last but not least, we continuously develop and improve the software; the current version can always be downloaded for free and no maintenance fee applies.
So you don´t need to pay for services and maintenance that you don´t need, or for databases that you don´t want. Instead, we offer a wide range of data, maintenance, and services, to be configured and tailored just as needed. Contact us if you are interested and / or have questions!
A note on the business model
We are often asked “How do you make money when the software is free?”, and “is there a trick, a catch?”. Therefore, let us try to explain.
We started the development of openLCA with the idea that high costs for LCA software prevent a broader application of the approach, and that they are not necessary (in addition to the transparency aspect of course). See here an older presentation from already 2008. A mixture of different activities contributes to maintaining, improving and extending openLCA, including:
- database license sales;
- service contracts;
- software development and adaptation.
The latter has started right from the beginning, initially, to our surprise, also sponsored by LCA software developers, now with several important and larger and smaller clients and projects. This is one side.
Then, we put less effort and emphasis on marketing: on printed brochures, goodies, tweets and facebook pages, cold calls… We try to spend effort where it counts for openLCA users.
Third, we think we can say that we are good in software development, in creating and delivering reliable, clean, technically up-to-date code (check it out: https://github.com/GreenDelta/olca-app).
That said, with the powerful import and export functions of openLCA, and with its nature of being open and transparent, users are much less in a “lock-in” situation than for other software systems.