Life Cycle Analysis
10 Dec 2020
The ‘life cycle analysis’ or LCA of a product can include many things, the financial costs over its life cycle, the energy inputs over its life cycle, or even the greenhouse gas emissions over its life cycle.
Conducting a life cycle analysis on a product is quite a difficult and complicated task. It shouldn’t be a great surprise as there exists companies and sophisticated software dedicated to just that task. It isn’t something that can just be done on the back of an envelope.
For instance to take one of the chairs that we manufacture here at Loft, the Polo 4 leg has a reasonably uncomplicated manufacturing process. The single piece seat shell is injection moulded from one single material, polypropylene and then attached with 4 steel screws to a steel tubular base. Plastic feet are then attached to the base of the legs of the tubular chair frame. All in all 4 components, and only 3 different materials if we count the steel leg and steel screws as one.
To take just the screws initially as an example and understand the life cycle involved here. Initially the iron ore has to be mined, manufactured into the raw steel (at huge temperatures and with other material inputs), and then made into usable forms – be them billets, rods or sheets. Specifically steel rods are then made into screws which require several more stages of production, cutting, threading, heading and electroplating. The nascent stage of the screw describes the large percentage of the anaylsis of its life cycle so putting aside the rest we can see just how complicated and how many stages and inputs go into just this one element.
Furniture contributes 30% of the carbon footprint of a commercial building over its entire life.
Fortunately one significant portion of the life cycle of the polo chair which we are able to ascertain is in its transportation. As we manufacture all of our Robin Day collection including the Polo chair in the UK and more specifically England, we know the transportation involved in getting from factory to retailer.
We’ve calculated that by manufacturing here and not say in China we are saving nearly 1 metric tonne of CO2 for every 500 chairs we produce. To put this in perspective an average European’s yearly carbon footprint is about 8 tonnes so 1/8th of that is no small saving.
And carbon emissions aren’t the only benefit to having our factories based in the UK. We are able to ensure all our factories have high ethical work standards, we can and do regularly visit them and obviously by spending money locally we’re benefiting the national economy.