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Environmental Impact – Life Cycle Assessment Thesis

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Updated: Jul 4th, 2019


In Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, housing and building sectors consume a third of their energy. This is an accumulation of the energy consumed in the production of construction materials, machinery, assemblies, and the shipment of construction materials.

On the other hand, the non-building sectors account for 30-50% of all commodities consumed and are responsible for 40% of solid waste. With the increase in environmental degradation and the effects of global warming, more resources are becoming scarce. Global Footprint Network asserts that it is uncertain if limited resources will maintain human consumption in the near future.

To reduce the trail of the built environment, humans must come up with interventions, which will enhance building efficacy with respect to operational logic and a material logic. To attain these developments, practices such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) offer practical knowledge and aid in identifying design alternatives that decrease environmental degradation.

In Australia, more construction practitioners and policy makers emphasize on sustainability. It is the duty of the LCA practitioners and relevant authorities to offer appropriate BMCC-LCA information and to ensure that the information can be gathered at the B/C level in an appropriate manner.

As interventions are being sought to lessen the effects of construction, Life Cycle Assessment is considered as a goal gauge to evaluate construction plans that evade challenges. To enhance the use of Life Cycle Assessment, construction related decision-making, strategies like the AusLCI projects have been created to expand and preserve the information required in LCA’s undertaking. Based on these themes, this analysis investigates the use of Life Cycle Assessment by evaluating classic and unconventional Australian homes.


ISO defines Life Cycle Assessment as a collection and assessment of the efforts, products and the probable ecological impacts of a product system throughout its Lifecycle. At the present, Life Cycle Assessment has expanded into a key instrument for sustainability decision support. Its importance is yet to be established in accordance with the quality and support it offers. LCA was created when the need for environmental policy became a key issue in Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

The chief essentials of the Life Cycle Assessment are illustrated in the study. In general, Life Cycle Assessment is the procedure of evaluating prospective impacts that manufactured goods, procedures, or services have on the surroundings in their over the life cycles. Figures can be used to demonstrate the life cycle organization notion of natural resources. In the figures, energy can be illustrated inflowing into the system, whereas products and refuse can be illustrated exiting the system.

The framework for LCA

LCA’s technological structure comprises of four mechanisms, namely goal and scope description, inventory study, impact evaluation, and analysis. Each of these mechanisms has a crucial role in the study. They are interconnected throughout the entire evaluation with respect to modern ISO terms.

Goal and scope definition

This mechanism involves the process of deciding on the scope, aims, and limits of the LCA. At the start of an LCA, the objective and the range of the project should evidently define. The objective must state explicitly the proposed function of the project, the addressees, the expected output, the function to be analysed, and the extent of the project. To define the extent of the project, reference units, system limits and data quality necessities should be addressed.

Inventory analysis

Inventory analysis comprises of compilation, examination, and justification of information that enumerate the suitable contributions and productivity of a product system. This approach makes use of linked mass balance models to describe the inputs and the outputs for each part. The outcome comprises of a procedure flow chart, an inventory of all discharges, and resources and energy inputs that are linked with the product under examination.

Impact assessment

Impact assessment determines the surrounding effects of both the inputs and the outputs. The key intention of carrying out an impact assessment is to recognize and ascertain the connection between a product life cycle and its prospective surrounding impacts. This stage comprises of three phases. The phases are aimed at assessing the implication of the stated environmental impacts with respect to the product under study.

The initial phase comprises of categorization of the outcomes, allocate the elemental flows to effect groups, and computing their roles in the impact. The next phase comprises of the assessment of the impact consequences with respect to the nationwide impact levels. The last stage is the weighting of the obtained outcomes to facilitate the computation of a single indicator result. Concerning this study, the first two stages will be analyzed.


This approach aims at analysing the different ways to reduce environmental impacts. As such, the interpretation is a methodical review of the obtained results in relative to the goal and scope. Through this, the conclusions of the surrounding profile of the merchandise or system being evaluated is obtained.

Besides the basic LCA method, definite methods can be employed in projects aimed at coming up with inventory data for construction material quantities and energy utilization over the life of the construction.

Goal of the study

The aim of this project is to contrast the effects linked with the systems’ resources and end-of-life management. Through this, the probable results of a full life cycle assessment are obtained. The study makes use of LCA methods to compute and contrast the greenhouse possibility and cumulative energy demand of some building plans. These plans comprise of the following:

  1. Contemporary, timber-frame brick-veneer house plan of equal floor area and internal amenity.
  2. Latest house wall made of reinforced concrete wall with polystyrene lagging R1.5
  3. Latest house wall made of reinforced concrete wall with rock wool lagging R1.5

Scope of Analysis

Description of product systems under investigation

This project centres on the structural material fundamentals of a house. It contrasts the surrounding affects caused by the material systems linked with the subsequent house plans:

  1. Contemporary, timber-frame brick-veneer house plan of equal floor area and internal amenity
  2. Latest house wall made of reinforced concrete wall with polystyrene lagging R1.5
  3. Latest house wall made of reinforced concrete wall with rock wool lagging R1.5

In the scope, fixtures and the fittings within the construction cover are not included. The floor designs for each plan have equal living space. The dissimilarity between the house plans linked with the structural fundamentals, shield systems, or partition systems. All house plans depend on a toughened concrete slab base and contemporary timber roof system. The windows and doors are also reserved equal spaces in all the three plans.

Functional unit

The chief aim of the functional unit is to offer a reasonable gauge to contrast the houses chosen with respect with the respect to the services offered by the houses. The suburban living space comprised of a unit single storey construction of 100.2 m2 of liveable area for a period of 60 years, in Melbourne, Australia. The functional unit was a one square meter of internal floor area for a period of 1 year.

System boundary

The life cycle phases of this study comprise:

  1. Embodied effects linked to materials employed
  2. transportation
  3. Building
  4. Waste supervision of resources at end of life

The system boundary illustrates the procedures that are incorporated in the study together with resources and energy flows back and forth the surrounding linked with the construction and disposal life cycle phases. The system limits of this project comprise:

  1. Procedures for mining and manufacture of the raw materials;
  2. Transportation and alteration of the materials into products;
  3. End of life waste supervision of the materials such as recycling and land filling.

Because building types have an effect on the structures’ thermal performance, heating and cooling set effects have been incorporated. Prominent omissions from the system are internal decoration, furnishing, floor casings, cabinetry, window casings, electrical fit-ups, plumbing fitting-up, garden, exterior concrete and mechanical system infrastructures. Similarly, domestic devices, house waste generation, and water utilization have been omitted from the system.

Procedures that do not affect the construction cover have also been omitted from the system limits. These include capital equipment, human resource, fixtures, and fittings. Construction effects were estimated by modelling the transportation of material to the site. On site of fabrication, effects are estimated to be negligible for all building plans.

Life Cycle Impact Assessment method

The process interprets emissions, resource mining, and other efforts towards the distinct surrounding or inventory pointers.

Life Cycle Inventory

Inventory data

This part shows the data and the assumptions employed in the creation of the life cycle inventory (LCI) for the goods chosen in the project. Unless otherwise specified, procedure information is accounted in the level by which they were at first accounted. The catalogue was created from the data indicating the cost of materials.

Material quantities

Material quantities for the home chosen were from the conventional Australian 3 bedroom house. Roof, base, windows, and floor plan layout were unchanged.

Material quantities for the home were created from computed wall, window, base and roof areas. The standard quantity factors were computed with respect to Lawson, which have been modified to contain more practical quantities for foundation systems, raised floor systems, and to identify the conventional construction material sizes. This method is analogous to that used by Maddox.

Material Bill

In the model created, supplementary materials such as windows, soaking, insulation, door hardware, doors, damp course and concrete membrane were also were also incorporated.

Building life

Building life was approximated to be 60 years. This guess is in accordance with other projects and Australian Building Codes Board guidance (ABCB 2006).

Building operation

Building procedure and repairs are incorporated in the study. Operational effects are only restricted to the prerequisite of heating and cooling. Additional operational effects such as hot water, appliances, lighting are omitted from the system chosen.

Every building type evaluated was modelled with the help of AccuRate energy simulation kit. Thereafter, energy efficiency enhancements were regulated to obtain a star rating of six stars in accordance with the climate zones of Melbourne.

Energy sources for heating and cooling

To interpret the energy utilization throughout construction operation into environmental effects, suppositions concerning the heating and cooling systems used were needed. In support of heating and cooling, an electric reverse cycle-air-condition system is assumed to have employed. For warming, it is assumed that the normal coefficient of performance (COP) is 4.27. With respect to cooling, the energy efficiency ratio (EER) is 4.04.

The figures were determined with respect to the operations of air condition varieties found in the market. The thermal operations of cooling and heating air condition were necessitated. The Carbon effects in every 1KWh of electricity used were 1.11 kg CO2-aqua (Australian LCI database).


Maintenance necessities for the construction have been projected using approximated replacement rates. Generally, replacement frequencies are equivalent to or more advanced than technical design lives mentioned in the existing literatures. Accumulation of maintenance impact is presumed to take place linearly from the start of house operation. This is in contrast with discrete intervals thus evading interval truncation errors. Dumping of workings replaced is presumed to be to landfill.


Front-position transport procedures considered using the likely transport distances and approaches. In the list below, the chief transport distances and modes have been summarised.

  1. Concrete starting at Nowra to Berry: distance covered by concrete truck was 17.4 km
  2. Bricks starting at Nowra to Berry: distance covered by articulated truck distance was 17.4 km
  3. Steel starting at Wollongong to Berry: distance covered by articulated truck was 61.4 km
  4. Collarbone sheet starting at Wollongong to Berry: distance covered by articulated truck was 61.4 km
  5. Oriented strand board (OSB) starting at Austria to Perth: Articulated truck starting at St Johan (Austria) to Slovenia covered 337 km
  6. Sea freight starting at Slovenia to Perth via Singapore covered 19,443 km, and articulated truck starting at Freemantle to Perth covered 20 km
  7. SIPS panels starting at Perth to Berry: Diesel train freight (4352 km)
  8. SIPS panels starting at Sydney to Berry: Articulated truck (144 km)
  9. Container component starting at China to Berry: Articulated road freight to Shanghai port (10 km), sea freight to Sydney was 8604.3 km, and articulated road freight starting at Sydney to Berry covered 143.7 km.
  10. Structural soft and hard wood: Articulate truck (200 km); approximation only

Every other transport representation was based on catalogues found in the backdrop databases. Road cargo distances were employed together with Australian Life Cycle Catalogue and ecoinvent unit procedures for articulated trucks.

These catalogues include the effects of backhauls together with unfilled returns with respect to regional averages. Sea cargo distances were approximated with the use port-to-port cargo distances accessible from shippingdistances.com. The catalogue for global shipping freight inventory from ecoinvent was employed.

End of life

Post-consumer throwaway catalogue were designed for each object and dumping area. The end-of-life comprised of management in landfill and building and demolition recycling. The divide amid these end-of-life managements was developed with the use of information for every object and are considered.

Approach to recycling

Recycling procedure represented the effects linked with the assortment and reprocessing of waste products into usable products. As well, credits were useful in recycling because they lead to the evasion of resources from virgin sources. Regional-distinct catalogues were created for every recycling procedure.


Despite the fact that these approximations are perceived to be adequate to contrast substitute-building styles, in addition they could be improved by a project that comprises of actual measurements particularly in relation to building material quantities and waste on-site.

Life cycle inventory

Life cycle inventory leads to the postulations necessitated concerning the cost of material quantities and generally operational necessities that are grounded on hypothetical approximations rather than real measures. The catalogues and outcomes of this project are grounded in current supply-chain specific data.

Use phase exclusion

The appraisal reviewed the effects of the material and end of life systems only. The omission of the utilization phase implies that a full life cycle was not selected. The directional character of the results may vary if the usage of phase is incorporated

Impact assessment methodology

To evaluate possible surrounding impacts, the project does not distinguish between national and international impacts. With respect to some environmental indicators, this can be vital.

LCIA outcomes are comparative expressions. Therefore, they do not forecast effects on class endpoints, the extended thresholds, safety limits or threats and, when incorporated as a fraction of the LCA.

Cumulative energy demand indicator

Whenever fossil-based energy is employed, CED can illustrate a relationship with global warming possibility. Nevertheless, whenever renewable energy systems are used, CED will not illustrate any relationship with any environmental pointer.

Impact assessment results

The outcomes of the project were not aimed at reflecting an industry-wide outcome of construction in Australia, or to portray prospective surrounding effects of making use of the considered products mentioned in all situations.

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