What is IELab?

The Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory (IELab) is a collaborative e-research project with a mission to greatly enhance our ability to make strategic decisions that deliver a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable economy. It provides a platform for environmental footprint and life cycle sustainability assessments (LCSA) based on multi-region input-output (MRIO) modelling. Dozens of organisations, researchers and practitioners collaborate in the IELab to build and modify their own customised input-output analytics in fields such as regional and environmental economic modelling, life-cycle assessment, carbon footprinting and environmental impact assessment.

Three groups in particular benefit from IELab infrastructure:

  • The broader academic research community. The IELab is applicable to research in areas such as industrial ecology (IE), regional economics, transition analysis, sustainability and environmental impact assessments as well as participatory modelling.
  • Private sector companies and consultancies specialised in triple-bottom-line and sustainability assessments. Consultants are attracted to the rich ensemble of Hybrid LCA data, the ease of regionalisation of economic and environmental data and the analytical tools provided by IELab.
  • Public sector agencies. Statistical offices (such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS) have shown a strong interest in the compilation of detailed MRIO tables and environmental satellite accounts by the IELab, since they often do not have the resources to produce such data themselves. Other public sector organisations that might find IELab data and tools useful include e.g. financial/economic governments, environmental protection agencies, sustainable development commissions etc.

This web site is a resource for research, education and collaboration in environmental, social and economic impact analysis. It hosts various resources from contributors in our scientific community that will help you learn about using the IELab for your project.

Most importantly, the IELab offers live Modelling Tools that you can access from your web browser, so you can not only learn about but also undertake your own projects in LCA and footprinting.

View audio-slides or read the article explaining the underlying principles of IELab.

 

The IELab integrates a diverse set of data streams with a calculation engine that can rapidly react as new information becomes available. This capability marks a new era in sustainability research boosting our ability to make strategic decisions that deliver a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable economy.

The IELab uses a three-tiered Root-Base-Branch structure that allows maximum flexibility. The first tier, the Root classification, represents the maximum sectoral and spatial detail that could be attained if highly disaggregated data were universally available.

The second tier is the Base table. Any number of base tables can be derived from the Root table by aggregating the root classification to a point where the MRIO can be constructed with available computing resources. The Base table provides a mechanism for including problem-specific information that is not already part of the Root.

The third tier is the Branch table. It is derived from the Base table and provides a mechanism for including any problem-specific information not already captured in the Root. This feature is particularly useful for hybrid LCA and sector disaggregation.

IElab has already succeeded in bringing together a diverse set of sustainability researchers and practitioners, enabling tangible, inter-disciplinary research outputs. These include published triple bottom line assessments of industrial biofuel production and large-scale biorefining, low-carbon construction materials and high-resolution waste modelling (see the list of projects and publications). The IELab provides a much-used basis for data and analysis in industry-relevant, cooperative research, including integrated sustainability assessments and tools for the construction industry and the water industry. Using the IELab, organisations can also create a comprehensive sustainability report simply by inputting their organisation's expenditure and revenue accounts.

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IELab was funded under the NeCTAR scheme. NeCTAR is an Australian Government project conducted as part of the Super Science initiative and financed by the Education Investment Fund (2009-2013).

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