• iSustainabilityLab

    Quantitative Sustainability Assessment on Complex Systems

  • Applied Sustainability Science

    Strategic Resource Management based on tools

    Life Cycle Thinking for Life Cycle Assessment

    Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool for the systematic evaluation of the environmental, economical and social aspects of a product or service system through all stages of its life cycle. LCA provides an adequate instrument for decision support on complex systems (Source UNEP)

    The Phases of Life Cycle Assessment

    1. Goal and Scope Definition, the product(s) or service(s) to be assessed are defined, a functional basis for comparison is chosen and the required level of detail is defined; 
    2. Inventory Analysis of extractions and emissions, the energy and raw materials used, and emissions to the atmosphere, water and land, are quantified for each process, then combined in the process flow chart and related to the functional basis; 
    3. Impact Assessment, the effects of the resource use and emissions generated are grouped and quantified into a limited number of impact categories which may then be weighted for importance; 
    4. Interpretation, the results are reported in the most informative way possible and the need and opportunities to reduce the impact of the product(s) or service(s) on the environment are systematically evaluated.

    Material Flow Analysis

    Material Flow Analysis (MFA) is a quantitative procedure for determining the flow of materials and energy through the economy. It uses Input/Output methodologies, including both material and economic information. It is an accounting system that captures the mass balances in an economy, where inputs (extractions + imports) equal outputs (consumptions + exports + accumulation + wastes), and thus is based on the laws of Thermodynamic (Source, The Sustainable Scale Project)

    The Phases of Material Flow Analysis

    1. Identification of the key (material flow related) issues.
    2. System analysis (selection of the relevant matter, processes, indicator substances (elements), and system boundaries).
    3. Quantification of mass flows of matter and indicator substances.
    4. Identification of weak points in the system.
    5. Development and evaluation of scenarios and schematic representation, interpretation of the results.

    Circular Economy Approach

    A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles (Source, Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

    The Principles of Circular Economy

    Principle 1: Preserve and enhance natural capital ...by controlling finite stocks and balancing renewable resource flows.

    This starts by dematerialising utility—delivering utility virtually, whenever possible. When resources are needed, the circular system selects them wisely and chooses technologies and processes that use renewable or better-performing resources, where possible. A circular economy also enhances natural capital by encouraging flows of nutrients within the system and creating the conditions for regeneration of, for example, soil.

    Principle 2: Optimise resource yields ...by circulating products, components, and materials at the highest utility at all times in both technical and biological cycles.

    This means designing for remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling to keep components and materials circulating in and contributing to the economy.

    Circular systems use tighter, inner loops whenever they preserve more energy and other value, such as embedded labour. These systems also keep product loop speed low by extending product life and optimising reuse. Sharing in turn increases product utilisation. Circular systems also maximise use of end-of-use bio-based materials, extracting valuable bio-chemical feedstocks and cascading them into different, increasingly low-grade applications.

    Principle 3: Foster system effectiveness​ ...by revealing and designing out negative externalities.

    This includes reducing damage to human utility, such as food, mobility, shelter, education, health, and entertainment, and managing externalities, such as land use, air, water and noise pollution, release of toxic substances, and climate change.

  • What We Do

    Right now, Our Initiatives and Research Themes

    FONDAP WARCAM @IngenieríaUDD @UdeC

    WARCAM is a project of excellence supported by CONICYT/Chile in the framework of FONDAP 2013 (FIFTH NATIONAL COMPETITION FOR RESEARCH CENTERS IN PRIORITY AREAS), to develop a Water Research Center for Agriculture and Mining in Chile. The general objective is to optimize the use of water resources and consumption in the agriculture and mining industry of Chile and to be a reference for water management for irrigated agriculture and the mining industry. It seeks to generate scientific advances and technological knowledge to permit a stable and harmonious development of agriculture and mining; to interact with governmental institutions and local and international experts, and to influence policy-making and planning to generate more sustainable processes.

    MatER Initiative @ingenieriaUDD @WTERT

    Waste to Energy Research and Technology - Chile

    The Chilean Chapter of Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council - MatER Initiative - aims at establishing scientific bases for the many issues related to energy and materials recovery from waste, without being influenced by any ideological or political consideration. The ultimate goal is to give a rigorous scientific definition of the technologies and the policies which can be adopted for material and energy recovery, contributing to identify the most effective options for sustainable, economically viable waste management practices.

    Financial Risk related to Water Consumption in Mining Industry

    Water Consumption Assessment in Mining Industry

    The mining industry faces big challenges on water management. Unfortunately, existing tools, while useful for a general comparison of companies and locations, are inadequate for detailed, asset-level risk assessment and management. We are looking for new models to assess water risks in a climate change framework

    Sustainability Indicators @FEN @Ingenieria

    Development  of Corporate Sustainability Index for Chile

    We are developing the first Sustainability Index for companies based on social weighting, applying value Judgement to Sustainability Index variables.

    Sustainability Assessment of Public Policies in Natural Resources

    Sustainability Assessment of Natural Resource Policy

    Our approach is the sustainability assessment of public policies that prioritizes and defines the scope to ensure the sustainability of natural resources. A sustainability assessment goes beyond policy analysis – ex ante - or policy evaluation – ex post -; this assessment recognizes that the policy-making process has influence on how the policy and its contents – engineering solutions - are implemented; thereby indicating the likelihood of policy success.

    Water Risk Assessment @CIGIDEN @CRHIAM

    Risk Evaluation due to Natural Disasters: PEER model and Multivariate Statistical Analysis

    The scientific knowledge about natural disasters has made significant progress in the last decades and has allowed governments to prevent casualties, reduce the economic losses and the associated environmental impacts. The recent experience with extreme natural events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, wild fire or droughts, has shown that a fluid cooperation between the scientists, the community, and decision making agents is key to successfully manage the different stages of the natural disaster. In its essence, the management of natural disasters and related hazards is a complex problem that requires the interaction of multidisciplinary teams and the integration of different fields of knowledge with one common goal: that of creating resilient communities and mitigating the impacts of extreme natural events.

    Water Sustainability and Climate Change Initiative (WSCI)

    Linking Water Systems and Society. @UDD and @UdeC

    The WSCI between iSustainabilityLab and the Laboratorio de Recursos Hídricos y Políticas Comparadas @UdeC-Chillan is an integrated effort to understand how water and its benefits derive from ecosystem services over time. The project is focused on the Chilean Watersheds and its environmental, economical and social outcomes of potential pathways of change in water resources. Our questions are:

    1. how do the different water uses and manage lands affect the resilience and sensitivity of ecosystem services?
    2. How could regional governance provide solutions to adapt to diverse water needs and consumption?
    3. How could changes in water resources and climate affect human well-being over time? 
    4. Where are the vulnerabilities and the opportunities into water systems?

    Environmental Behavior and Decision-Making

    Why do people act environmentally friendly or not?

    We are looking for understand the environmental perception and decision-making in the brain, using both behavioral methods and neurosciences tools. Ongoing research is focuses on environmental decision-making by playing strategic video games such as SimCity.

    Ethics in environmental decision-making

    individual ethics and national performance

    We aim at providing an overview about the existing data and a systematic analysis of the different influencing factors on individual ethical decision-making and action

  • Projects on board

    These are a pieces of a big puzzle... Already, we are working on.

    Sustainability Assessment of Water Policy

    Methodology to prioritize actions on a Water Policy

    We are setting to water resources as a keystone into economy. According to new policy, three main scopes and actions has been proposed: An increase in the availability of water resources, An improvement in water use efficiency and an improvement in allocation based on information systems and water markets. All actions are based on (1) the relationship between increasing water availability and its efficient use to alleviate water scarcity and food security, (2) environmental sustainability, (3) the role of users to promote a fair distribution of resource into water markets.

    Water-Energy-Water Nexus in Chile

    Linking Production and Wastes's generation by Food and Raw Material Consumption.

    We are assessing the energy potential based on food and raw material consumption linking extraction of natural resources and waste's generation by MFA and LCA.

    Advancing Sustainable Waste Management in Latam

    President’s Global Innovation Fund @ColumbiaU

    The objectives of this Project are: a) to identify and characterize the obstacles to sustainable waste management in selected Latin America nations (starting with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Costa Rica) and ways to overcome them; b) encourage/nurture the formation of national academia-industry waste management organizations in Latin America, similar to existing ones in thirteen countries; c) disseminate the findings of this study to other developing regions, using the existing WTERT web network, publications, and a 2016 international meeting at Columbia University.

    Water Consumption Assessment in the mining and agriculture Chilean industries

    LCA of water consumption and intensity of the copper mining industry in Chile

    This project aims to use life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology to investigate the water consumption of the Chilean copper mining industry. An LCA methodology will be developed to model each copper mining operation from ‘cradle to grave’ with a focus on water use within each unit process. This tool will allow the water use ‘hot-spots’ to be identified as well as calculating the total water consumption. 

    Data Sciences applied to Water Lawsuit and Statement

    Text Data Mining applied to Water Rights

    We are working on a synoptic picture of the evolution of water lawsuits and chilean politics related to water resources, based on analysis of the corpus of presidents’ speeches (1926–2015). We are developing a strategy for automated text analysis that can identify meaningful categories in textual corpora that span long durées, where terms, concepts and language use changes, and evolution of topical structure is a priori unknown. This analysis is linked to geographical and environmental data in a timeframe.

    PEER's Model Applied to Flooding and Drought Risk Assessment

    Water Risk Assessment

    Coming soon...

    Environmental Decision-Making on Virtual Environments

    Simulating Planning: SimCity as a Pedagogical Tool

    SimCity provides a dynamic decision-making environment in which students can learn (1) systems thinking, (2) problem-solving skills, and (3) “craft” in the planning profession. In this research, our main goal is determinate the weight of these virtual environments into curricula of engineering careers by video games such as SimCity to promote the learning of sustainable development.

    Inequality of Natural Resources Distribution

    Water Inequality Index

    We are developing a new methodology to assess the water inequality.

    Understanding Complex Systems: Engineering, Society and Sustainability

    Underlying patterns and relationships between sociodemographic, industrial, economic and environmental variables that explain the social and environmental inequality by GIS and System Thinking models

    We are developing methodologies to understand the causes and effects of current events characterized by its natural resources, climate, infrastructure needs engineering, societal and political frameworks linking science, technology, society and engineering.

    Environmental ethics

    Ethics in environmental decision-making: From individual acts to global outcomes?​

    Our hypothesis is that the differential environmental performances of individuals are independent of the state of development of a country, but linked to social parameters. Consequently, the environmental outcomes, such as those related to environmental justice, will depend largely on individual moral decision-making to engage in environmentally appropriate behavior. According to the current research literature, environmental decision-making largely depends on three factors: environmental education, environmental awareness and environmental behavior. But, alternative evidence shows that environmental choices do not depend on environmental literacy or awareness, but rather on the individual’s “moral and ethics”.