98204 - Circular economy and life cycle thinking

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Docente: Monia Niero
  • Credits: 12
  • Language: English

Learning outcomes

The course aims to offer the learner interdisciplinary project activities dealing with ecodesign and application of circularity in the perspective of a more effective industrial and urban ecological transition. At the end of the course the learner acquires skills on the concept of circular economy and bioeconomy and how this enters in the management of resources and raw and secondary raw materials of industrial interest and industrial processes, in the environmental impact assessment within the life cycle of products and processes, in the recycling and valorisation of waste (e.g., WEEE, solar panels, batteries, plastics), in environmental and urban ecological regeneration.

Course contents

The course consists of 4 modules with the following content:

Module 1

Introduction to the circular economy (CE) concept: different definitions and concepts from which the circular economy has developed (eg. cradle to cradle, industrial symbiosis, performance economy); examples of implementation in different industrial sectors, limitations of the CE concept and challenges with its practical implementation

Circular Product Design, Circular Business Models and Design of Product Service Systems

Introduction to Life Cycle Thinking, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology according to ISO 14040-44 standards: goal and scope definition, Life Cycle Inventory, Life Cycle Impact Assessment and Life Cycle Interpretation

Circularity indicators and metrics to assess circular economy strategy at the product and organization levels: examples of implementation, benefits and challenges of combined LCA and circularity assessment


Module 2

The module deals with the topics necessary for the purposes of understanding and analysing all those parameters that characterize a very high energy efficiency building. The student is offered the opportunity to learn the basic concepts that revolve around the so-called Nearly Zero Energy Building (NZEB) which aim to consume fossil energy close to zero. Specifically, the student will be able to analyse and evaluate, with appropriate technical tools, the thermal performance of the building envelope (opaque and windowed), with the ability to compare traditional materials with more innovative ones. The technical systems will be dealt with in a timely and precise way to understand and analyse the differences in energy efficiency between the various systems and subsystems of plants, also with particular attention to those that use renewable energy sources. From these differences, the student is offered the opportunity to evaluate the most important energy parameters necessary to define and characterize any building and place it in the energy context required by current National Legislation and European Directives. The module also includes numerous practical exercises where the student will have to approach some case studies which include both new buildings and existing buildings subject to renovation in order to maximize energy savings.


Module 3

The module illustrates the different components that constitute a traditional electrical power system, a photovoltaic power plant and a wind power plant. Furthermore, the most common storage systems in the electrical field are addressed, from the point of view of the applications and their different components.

The attention is focused on the materials used in the various construction components of these technologies, and on their disposal and eventual recycling at the end of their life.


1 Electrical power systems

- Structure of an electrical system

- Components: overhead lines, cables, transformers, machines.

- Construction materials

2. Photovoltaic power plants

- Technologies

- Construction components and materials

- Disposal and recycling

3. Wind power plants

- Technologies

- Construction components and materials

- Disposal and recycling

4. Storage systems

- Technologies

- Construction components and materials

- Disposal and recycling

5. Other renewable sources


Module 4

The module is addressed to introduce the Positive Energy Districts (PED): initiatives at European level to enable the implementation and dissemination of PED, calculation of the energy demand, production at district level and CO2 emissions, engagement of the local stakeholder and citizen in the PED development, technological solution for PED implementation and examples of PED in Europe.

Starting from PED, the module will focus on Renewable Energy Communities (REC) and the transposition of REDII directive in Italy, dealing with renewable energy production, sustainable mobility, digital and green solution at district level to enhance the flexibility of the electric system and create Energy Communities to accelerate the energy transition in cities.

The students will be asked to work together in working group activities for the development of innovative business models and find solution for the implementation of PED and REC.



Lecture notes and selected papers will be available for students.

Reading lists will be provided as appropriate to support lectures

Teaching methods

The course unit is divided in four modules (40 hours for module 1, 40 hours for module 2, 20 hours for module 3 and 20 hours for module 4).

The topics of the course are treated from a theoretical and also a practical point of view, providing examples and in some cases through discussion in class.

Assessment methods

Each module is assessed through a written assignment, with a final oral exam

Teaching tools

The teaching support tools are available on https://virtuale.unibo.it

Office hours

See the website of Monia Niero

See the website of Cosimo Marinosci

See the website of Juan Diego Rios Penaloza

See the website of Claudia Carani


Affordable and clean energy Industry, innovation and infrastructure Sustainable cities Responsible consumption and production

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.