Life Cycle Assessment of Building Products. Case Studies and Methodology
Abstract: The main objectives of this thesis were to demonstrate how Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) may be applied to building products, to describe what methodological LCA issues are specific to building products, to work out solutions to some of these issues and to relate LCA to other environmental assessment methods that may be applied to building products. First, in a literature study, the state of the art in the field of environmental assessment of building products is described, and the five articles constituting the thesis are put into context. Paper I is an LCA case study of the flooring materials linoleum, vinyl flooring and solid wood flooring. The scenarios describe a situation in Sweden, and the study is confined to domestic floorings. In paper II, LCA is applied to more complex building structures, by studying concrete and steel structural frames in multi-storey buildings from a life cycle perspective. In paper III the results of the LCA study on floorings are put together with the results of a study on indoor air Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the same flooring types in order to assess the importance of use-related emissions from building materials from a life cycle perspective. Paper IV is partly based on paper III and presents a methodological comparison of the approaches of LCA, measurements of emissions from building products during use, and indoor climate assessment. The prerequisites for including indoor climate issues as an impact category in LCA of building products are examined. Finally, paper V is a methodological comparative study of six selected approaches for environmental assessment that may be applied to building products, using flooring as an example.The LCA method was found to be applicable for the environmental analysis and assessment of building products. LCA is presently gaining ground as a tool for product-related environmental work in the building sector. So far, the main use areas identified are communication and education, both towards external stakeholders and for internal use in a company or a trade associaton. When adapting LCA for applications in the building sector, a number of particular methodological issues arise: assessment of the impacts of the use phase, how to relate impacts to different system levels, description of future impacts, how to address indoor climate effects, and communication of the results. Studying LCA for application in the building sector is not only motivated out of the needs in this sector, since it raises methodological issues relevant also for other product groups where a long product life and considerable impacts during this life, such as human exposure, are characteristic features.
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