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05-07-2016 | UNCERTAINTIES IN LCA | Issue 2/2017

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 2/2017

Uncertainty in life cycle costing for long-range infrastructure. Part I: leveling the playing field to address uncertainties

Journal:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment > Issue 2/2017
Authors:
Patrick Ilg, Christoph Scope, Stefan Muench, Edeltraud Guenther
Important notes
Responsible editor: Thomas Swarr

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1007/​s11367-016-1154-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Abstract

Purpose

Life cycle costing (LCC) is a state-of-the-art method to analyze investment decisions in infrastructure projects. However, uncertainties inherent in long-term planning question the credibility of LCC results. Previous research has not systematically linked sources and methods to address this uncertainty. Part I of this series develops a framework to collect and categorize different sources of uncertainty and addressing methods. This systematization is a prerequisite to further analyze the suitability of methods and levels the playing field for part II.

Methods

Past reviews have dealt with selected issues of uncertainty in LCC. However, none has systematically collected uncertainties and linked methods to address them. No comprehensive categorization has been published to date. Part I addresses these two research gaps by conducting a systematic literature review. In a rigorous four-step approach, we first scrutinized major databases. Second, we performed a practical and methodological screening to identify in total 115 relevant publications, mostly case studies. Third, we applied content analysis using MAXQDA. Fourth, we illustrated results and concluded upon the research gaps.

Results and discussion

We identified 33 sources of uncertainty and 24 addressing methods. Sources of uncertainties were categorized according to (i) its origin, i.e., parameter, model, and scenario uncertainty and (ii) the nature of uncertainty, i.e., aleatoric or epistemic uncertainty. The methods to address uncertainties were classified into deterministic, probabilistic, possibilistic, and other methods. With regard to sources of uncertainties, lack of data and data quality was analyzed most often. Most uncertainties having been discussed were located in the use stage. With regard to methods, sensitivity analyses were applied most widely, while more complex methods such as Bayesian models were used less frequently. Data availability and the individual expertise of LCC practitioner foremost influence the selection of methods.

Conclusions

This article complements existing research by providing a thorough systematization of uncertainties in LCC. However, an unambiguous categorization of uncertainties is difficult and overlapping occurs. Such a systemizing approach is nevertheless necessary for further analyses and levels the playing field for readers not yet familiar with the topic. Part I concludes the following: First, an investigation about which methods are best suited to address a certain type of uncertainty is still outstanding. Second, an analysis of types of uncertainty that have been insufficiently addressed in previous LCC cases is still missing. Part II will focus on these research gaps.

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