Life cycle assessment

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What is life cycle assessment?

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product or system through all stages of its life.

Life Cycle Assessment framework


Why is it useful?

The results of an LCA can be used effectively in the building sector for policy making and to provide quantitative fact based information for the development of ecolabels. On a company level the results can be used for product improvement from an environmental point of view.

Regulations and subsidy schemes based on LCA data as well as environmentally improved products can contribute to improve the overall sustainability performance of the housing stock in New Zealand. New Zealand specific data are a key requisite for this.

LCA has been used in the building sector overseas, but also in other industries, such as the packaging industry and the car manufacturing industry for a long time. Learning from the experience and applications of LCA will give an insight in the possible developments in New Zealand.


Beacon and LCA

Beacon commissioned a series of scoping studies in 2006 to guide the direction of future research.  Each study reviewed the technologies available in New Zealand and overseas, with a view to identifying technologies critical to mass improvement of New Zealand’s housing stock and those which required further development to get maximum impact on the market.  This was followed by life cycle assessments of the Waitakere NOW Home and two Papakowhai Renovations.  These clearly showed the greatest environmental impact of a house comes from its operation, rather than construction.  Efforts should focus on how to get the best results during operation, by incorporating the best features of each product to minimise impact over the life of the building.

Lack of New Zealand data is holding back further exploration of these issues.  Only five possible environmental impact categories were considered in this study, whereas a total of 13 are used by BRE in the Green Guide to Product Specification.  Yet other impact categories may be more pertinent to New Zealand conditions.

Beacon believes New Zealand needs to develop a national approach to providing robust information on the impact of building materials.  Co-operation between industry, government and research community to improve New Zealand’s datasets and agree a standard set of impact categories will increase the robustness and usefulness of LCA information.


 


  • 31-Jan-2010 (Publication SM3570/9)

    The Environmental Impact of the Waitakere NOW Home®: A Life Cycle Assessment Case Study (PDF 2MB)

    Nick Collins, Andrea Blackmore

     

    A Life Cycle Assessment case study of Beacon Pathway's Waitakere NOW Home® indicates that the greatest environmental impact of a house is not during construction or manufacturing, but from its operation over the life of the house.  The study focused on the house itself over a 100-year period in New Zealand, with a family of four inhabiting it. Heating, lighting and hot water were considered, and seven key building systems were evaluated separately.  Life cycle phases of construction, use, maintenance, transportation of materials to site and end of life were included.  New Zealand-specific Life Cycle Inventory data was used, wherever possible, for building materials.  However, where New Zealand data was unavailable, European industry data was used.

     


  • 31-Jul-2009 (Report SM3570/8)

    Life Cycle Assessment of the Waitakere NOW Home® (PDF 576KB)

    David Drysdale, Barbara Nebel

    This report provides an assessment of the environmental impacts of the Waitakere NOW Home®  using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and New Zealand Life Cycle Inventory data. 


  • 30-Nov-2008 (Report SM3570/7)

    LCA-based Window Calculator (Excel calculator) (Excel spreadsheet 664KB)

    Daniel Kellenberger, Nicolas Perez

    This research developed a working prototype of a tool to using life cycle assessment to quantify the sustainability of a a defined window  with a certain thermal resistance over a lifespan of 50 years. An Excel-based calculator offers a simple interface for the user to define a specific window. Based on this information, the calculator gives the environmental impact of the window over a specific lifespan, as well as the resulting R-value.  This work was not developed further as Beacon's focus moved toward understanding whole-of-house dynamics. 


  • 30-Nov-2008 (Report SM3570/6)

    LCA-based Window Calculator (Report) (PDF 180KB)

    Daniel Kellenberger, Nicolas Perez

    This research developed a working prototype of a tool to using life cycle assessment to quantify the sustainability of a a defined window  with a certain thermal resistance over a lifespan of 50 years. An Excel-based calculator offers a simple interface for the user to define a specific window. Based on this information, the calculator gives the environmental impact of the window over a specific lifespan, as well as the resulting R-value.  This work was not developed further as Beacon's focus moved toward understanding whole-of-house dynamics. 


  • 31-Aug-2008 (Report SM3570/4)

    Life Cycle Assessment of the Waitakere NOW Home® and two Papakowhai Renovation homes (PDF 580KB)

    David Drysdale, Julie Sandilands

    This report provides an assessment of the environmental impacts of the Waitakere NOW Home® and two Papakowhai Renovation homes using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). This study used largely overseas datasets, and an analysis of the Waitakere NOW Home® was repeated with as much New Zealand data as possible.  See SM3570/9 The Environmental Impact of the Waitakere NOW Home®: A Life Cycle Assessment Case Study.


  • 09-Jan-2007 (Report TE201/3)

    The Role of LCA in Decision Making in the Context of Sustainable Development (PDF 251KB)

    Barbara Nebel

    This paper gives examples on how the results from Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) studies and the process of conducting the study can assist in decision making processes. Emphasis is on explaining and guidance on interpretation of the information delivered by an LCA as an essential part of achieving broader goals such as sustainability rather than the simple comparison of products. Gives examples of companies who have already successfully implemented LCA in their organisations. The paper concludes with recommendations about using LCA more effectively in decision making processes in the built environment in New Zealand.


  • 05-Jan-2007 (Report TE201/2)

    Guidelines for LCA Practitioners and Users of Building Related LCA Studies (PDF 173KB)

    Barbara Nebel

    Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool to analyse the environmental impacts of building materials and buildings. The ISO framework provides an appropriate basis for LCA studies. This paper assists LCA practitioners to implement the ISO framework in relation to building related LCAs, and enables users of LCA results to assess the quality and relevance of existing LCA studies.


  • 02-Jan-2006 (Report TE200/2)

    White Paper: Life Cycle Assessment and the Building and Construction Industry (PDF 257KB)

    Barbara Nebel

    Describes the concept of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), possible applications of the results and available tools and databases on anational and international level


Construction materials