ESD.123J | Spring 2006 | Graduate

Systems Perspectives on Industrial Ecology


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session


Engineers can fundamentally change the environmental footprint of modernity. To effect change, engineers require tools to identify “better” design and operational options. This course examines the use of life-cycle thinking and assessment tools to identify product and system design options that balance environmental and economic performance.


ESD.10 or 3.56.


Because the course covers a broad range of topics, there is no textbook. Students will be expected to consult the assigned readings, lecture notes, and other handouts.


Students are expected complete the homework assignments. Additionally, students will work in teams on two unit projects, producing a case study report and in-class presentation for each.


Grades will be based on various assignments throughout the term. Their approximate weights are:

Assignments 35%
Case 1 Presentation / Report 20%
Case 2 Presentation / Report 30%
Class Participation 15%

The final grade will be modulated by an appreciation of the participant’s progress throughout the semester, giving extra weight to those that finish strongly and demonstrate that they have mastered the material, in the end.

Course Policies


Students are expected to complete all assignments on time. Unexcused late assignments will be marked down. Reasonable excuses (sickness, unavoidable professional absences, family emergencies, etc.) will of course be accepted when presented near the event.

Work in Teams

Students will likely work in teams for the unit projects. Indeed, we encourage this collaboration because it can lead to more interesting results. We require each student to turn in individually written interpretations of the common analysis.

Academic Honesty

To avoid any potential confusion that might result from different expectations in other courses or establishments, please note the standards that apply in this subject:

  • Anyone found cheating during the in-class exam will receive a zero for the exercise.
  • Assignments turned in for grading are to be done individually, although it is expected that students will discuss the issues involved in problem sets and often learn best collectively. In practice this means that students may lead each other to the proper understanding of the material, and collaborate on setting up computer runs, but should ultimately prepare reports for each assignment individually, in their own format and words. Demonstrated evidence of copying (exactly the same presentations, same wording of sentences, etc.) will result in zeros for each paper with this evidence.

Class Schedule

1 Introduction

Part 1: Views on Industrial Ecology
2 What is Industrial Ecology? Assignment 1 due
3 Environmental Paradigm Assignment 2 due
4 Sustainability: Concepts and Metrics

5 Resource Economics

6 Resource Economics (cont.)

7 Resource Econ Group Presentations Assignment 3 due
Part 2: LCA: Method Basics
8 Life-cycle Assessment - Overview

9 Using the Software

10 LCA - Scope

11 LCA - Inventory

12 LCA - Inventory Allocation Assignment 4 due
13 LCA - Recycling

14 Materials Flow Analysis

Part 3: Environmental Evaluation and Advanced Methods
15 Overview of Case 2

16 LCA - Impact Assessment - EPS

17 LCA - Impact Assessment - EcoPoints

18 LCA Research

19 Case 1 Presentations

Part 4: Aggregate Materials Flows
20 National Materials Flows

21 Material Flow Case Study

Part 5: Environmental Policy Strategies
22 Environmental Policy Making (Part 1)

23 Environmental Policy Making (Part 2)

24 Industrial Ecology Research @ MIT

25 Final Presentations