Veronika and Nima shared their expertise about LCA at the Greenbuild Europe
April 9, 2019
Veronika Scheljagin and Nima Soltani from our Frankfurt office, together with Michaela Lambertz and Sebastian Theißen of the TH Köln (University of Applied Sciences) presented about Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) at the 2019 Greenbuild Europe in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Greenbuild Europe is the premier annual conference for European green building professionals.
The session gave an overview about the LCA process and the benefits LCA offers in terms of climate and environmental protection. Based on 2 project examples, they showcased the whole process from the initial motivation to perform an LCA and information gathering to methods to calculate the environmental impacts and how to present the results to the project team to facilitate the process of reducing the environmental impact. The processes for the 2 projects differed significantly as they are located in different locations – Germany and the US.
LCA is a valuable tool to express the environmental impact potential for every building as it considers a wide range of factors. The most common environmental impact potentials are acid rain, smog, eutrophication of our ecosystem and moreover the global warming potential to name a few, all of which have to be reduced within the Paris Agreement goals.
The impacts of the embodied emission can be reduced by carefully specifying and selecting materials that are local, have a high recycled content and long service life. This is especially important for the structural elements of a building, which have a significant impact on the embodied emission. Even better of course would be to reuse existing building structures. Besides the embodied emission LCA considers the operational emission a building is emitting within its life cycle over 60 years.
As an example, a typical office building in Germany with an energy use of 35.5 kBTU/sf-yr (112 kWh/m2-yr) has a total CO2– emission of 10.4 lbs/sf-yr (51 kg/m2-yr) including embodied and the operational emissions. The ratio of embodied and operational emission is approximately 1:3 in this case and gives a clear direction to reduce CO2– emissions. The focus is on operational emissions by minimize energy demand, selecting low – carbon energy sources and efficient energy production.
A question we asked the audience during the session. What do you think the CO2 emissions of a LEGO piece are? The solution is provided at the bottom of the article, the result of the audience survey is shown below.
- 37.5 kg CO2 0 %
- 3.75 kg CO2 20 %
- 0.375 kg CO2 53 %
- 0.0375 kg CO2 27 %
Furthermore, the session gave an outlook on what the future holds for LCA using BIM. With enough detail BIM-LCA integration empowers the decision-making process in early design stages by making environmental impacts of different building materials transparent. However, to date few BIM are set up in a way that allows the automatic transfer of information and immediate feedback of changes on the LCA.
Solution: CO2 – emission of a LEGO piece: 0.0375 kg CO2