Life cycle assessment of construction projects has been a well-known and used methodology for measuring adverse environmental impacts for a number of years.
But it is only in recent years that there has been a serious focus on the environmental impact of construction activities and the harmful effects that CO2 emissions in particular have on our climate here on earth.
But what is a life cycle assessment, and how can the EIA contribute to making decisions on the specific project on a safe and well-documented basis, so that solutions can be chosen that reduce or eliminate environmental impacts?
A life cycle assessment - often abbreviated to LCA - assumes that any construction project goes through five phases over its lifetime:
- Production (from raw material to construction products)
- Construction process (transport and execution on site)
- Use phase (operational energy consumption, continuous replacements, etc.)
- End of life (demolition, waste management and disposal)
- Potential for recycling (not included in LCA-building at present)
In the life cycle assessment for the overall construction, the environmental impact is calculated in the first four phases of LCA construction, and product-specific environmental data in the form of EPDs are used as far as possible to obtain the most accurate results.
Whole building LCA will be required for all new buildings when the new Building Regulations come into force in 2023. EKJ has been involved in testing the new Building Regulations requirements and Voluntary Sustainability Class, and we have also been involved in testing the EU Commission's pan-European initiative for sustainability in construction: Level(s).
However, life cycle assessments can be used to great advantage in conjunction with life cycle costing (LCC) assessments when choosing between different alternatives. By comparing environmental impact and total cost of ownership data for individual building elements or overall building systems in this way, the developer and designer can obtain the best possible overview and a solid basis for sustainable decision-making. This means making choices that benefit the climate and the local environment, while ensuring that the finished building is a robust and long-term investment.
To maximise the impact of life cycle assessments, it is important to include LCA early in the project cycle. This is where the environmental impacts of the project can be influenced, and therefore where the greatest climate benefits can be achieved.
DTU Skylab as a role model
EKJ has extensive experience with LCA calculations of buildings, including in connection with DGNB certifications, Level(s), Voluntary Sustainability Class and similar systems. For LCA calculations of construction projects, EKJ uses the Road Directorate's and the Danish Rail Authority's new joint calculation tool, InfraLCA, which focuses specifically on the climate impact of projects, also known as the carbon footprint.
DTU Skylab is the first building project included in DTU's sustainable campus development, which means that future new buildings will be certified to DGNB Gold. EKJ has been the sustainability manager/responsible for the DGNB certification, including performing life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC) calculations. The project is DGNB Gold certified.
Read about our other Sustainability services here.
Want to know more about LCA?
Innovation Manager, Plumbing Department
Tel: (+45) 20 27 83 94