Sunday, August 14, 2016

STELLA: An example of systems thinking and LCA

I've been using the program STELLA for a while now, since at least 2015. Recently, this program has transitioned to STELLA Professional, which is a strong product but costs much more. Nonetheless, STELLA can be a useful program for investigating system behavior.

STELLA is a visually-based system modeling software. It is used heavily in the social sciences, including ecological and environmental sciences. It's especially good for dynamic systems where the relationships between variables is known or well parameterized.

The system contains:

  • stocks (where a material or value can "collect")
  • inflows (which input x amount per timestep where x is their value)
  • outflows (which remove x among per timestep where x is their value)
  • modifiers (which can modify through numerical operation, the function of a inflow or outflow).
There is more, but those are the basics. I have created a set of slides, which will walk you through the process of using STELLA, which I will provide below.

Previously, I have worked on generating a systems diagram of the flow of clay, water and other materials in making ceramic water filters. This was used to calculate greenhouse gas emissions across the lifecycle and the effectiveness of amendments for arsenic removal using ceramic water filters.