The “EeBGuide” was a project co-funded by the EU in 2011 under the Seventh Framework Programme and European initiative E2B EI (Operational guidance for Life Cycle Assessment studies of the Energy Efficient Buildings Initiative). This was developed as a Coordination and Support Action (CSA) aimed at coordinating or supporting research activities and policies and was carried out by a group of international experts. Below we will analyse in more detail the objectives and most significant results of this project, among which was a more widespread use of LCA (Life Cycle Assessment).
The working group
An international consortium worked on the project for two years under the coordination of the Sustainable Construction Group of the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, with the participation of a German company called PE International AG. The other partners were French (Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment), Spanish (Escola Superior de Comercio International), British (BRE Global Ltd) and Swedish (Prof Ch Sjöström Consultancy).
Goals of the project
The international consortium aimed to meet the general short-term goal of empowering society to deal with the harmful effects of climate change by promoting sustainable development, in the form of eco-efficient consumption of manufactured goods and services with the minimum amount of embodied energy. In this context, the Life Cycle Assessment of buildings or of their components and materials, has a fundamental role in supporting the decision-making process to select the best, most innovative technologies and materials with the lowest environmental impact. Finally, the working group faced the challenge of promoting the LCA method for the evaluation of buildings (both retrofitted and new) and their components and materials, as widely and transparently as possible.
The strategic objectives of the project are as follows:
- to freely distribute a scientifically-credible manual of reliable quality through a web platform in order to facilitate its adoption by practitioners and industrialists;
- to produce case studies of the application of LCA in the construction sector (materials, products and buildings);
- to create a website reference for the dissemination of life cycle methodology that continues after the project is finished.
In summary, why does this project deserve attention? The main reasons can be stated is as follows:
- world statistics for the construction sector show that buildings and the built environment use 50% of all materials taken from the earth’s crust, contributing to its irreversible depletion;
- the use of buildings embodies most of the energy consumed by the construction sector, of which nearly half is primary energy (generally non-renewable sources) so that the construction industry generates about 40% of the greenhouse gases emitted in the European Union;
- waste generated by the sustainable materials industry accounts for 25% of the total produced annually by the construction industry;
- the construction sector has the greatest economic impact on society, accounting for 10% of the EU’s GDP;
- people spend almost 90% of their lifetime in a confined space (office, home, school, etc.);
- the European Technical Committee for Standardization published a useful guideline (CEN / TC 350) for LCA reports on the subject of buildings, building materials and also for LCC (Life Cycle Cost) and quantification of indoor comfort.
The EU LCA manual
The manual has the same name as the EeBGuide project and was developed with the involvement of leading experts in the construction industry. It can be read online or downloaded in a PDF format as can a template to prepare reports of LCA analysis.
The manual is divided into two parts: the first one for products (Part A) and the second one for buildings (Part B). Both parts contain ten chapters. The first five chapters of each deal with the general aspects of the LCA, while the last five analyse practical aspects. Both parts are equipped with excellent examples and some models for the report. In this article we look at the chapters on the methodological approach to life cycle analysis. To fully consult the manual, you can download it from the download page of the EeB website (as well as case studies, report templates and training materals). Some of these case studies, allow the user to determine which is the most suitable type of LCA for any given situation from amongst the following three categories:
1 – A Screening LCA (Ch. 2.4.1) is useful for architects and designers in general in the following cases:
- during the design stage, to identify the potential environmental impacts to be analysed at a later stage. However, it does not cover all the parameters of ISO 14044 (from cradle to gate);
- for architectural competitions, designs or projects funded by the EU, as it facilitates the production of supporting technical documentation;
- helping companies to improve the performance of their products (if data for their own countries are not available it is permitted to use data for neighbouring countries).
2 – The Simplified LCA (Ch. 2.4.2.) is useful to professionals and stakeholders of the building sector in the following cases:
- for environmental impact assessment which is more accurate (i.e. from cradle to grave) than the screening LCA described above. The analysis is performed based on the following standards: EN 15804, EN 15978 and other indicators described in the ILCD manual (International reference Life Cycle Data System) published in 2010 by the Joint Research Center Institute for Environment and Sustainability;
- labelling of sustainable materials (such as concrete).
3 – The Complete LCA (Ch. 2.4.3.) follows the applicable ISO standards, 14040 and 14044, and ideally considers the entire life cycle (from cradle to grave). This is most useful in the following cases:
- identification of environmental problems, during the individual stages of analysis of building components (e.g. a block of cement conglomerate insulated with wood panels), of products (e.g. an insulating mineral wool) and of materials and services, for each stage of the planning process for the construction or retrofit of buildings;
- to help a building’s design meet the criteria of EN standards 15804 and 15978.
The basic LCA report requirements
- definition of the objectives, scope, stages and boundaries of the analysis and reasons for carrying out the LCA;
- justification of the impact categories considered;
- uncertainty around collected data;
- main assumptions and limitations;
- LCA results according to life phases and modules;
- homogeneity of the analyzed data;
- interpretation and conclusions;
- review statement;
- detailed identification of the environmental problems of the product or the building analysed.
The manual’s final chapter contains a useful list of abbreviations and a glossary to facilitate understanding for people who are not familiar with the technical jargon. There is also a comparative evaluation list of commercially available software for producing LCA reports and for selecting appropriate environmental impact indicators.
The EeBGuide website is divided into seven sections, covering general information on the working group and on the project. Furthermore, in the download section a lot of documentation is available for free, such as for instance, three case studies about how to apply the analytical methods described above to three new builds and four energy retrofit builds. The final project results, completed in 2013, can be accessed by subscribing to the EeBGuide forum which is hosted in the multilingual Internet platform called Construction 21.
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This article was written by Italian architect Giovanna Barbaro during her Erasmus Project for Young Entrepreneurs with BiologiQ and published on 20/10/2014 on the following Italian website: Architettura Ecosostenibile
Photo credit: EeBGuide project