A building is responsible for the emission of a significant amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the various stages of its life cycle. Industry and government have been primarily focused on assessing and implementing mitigation measures related to the operational GHG emissions of buildings, leaving the emissions related to other life cycle stages, such as raw material extraction and maintenance, largely ignored. However, the uptake of assessments, such as life cycle assessment (LCA), and mitigation measures that consider buildings’ emissions from a life cycle perspective has been slow due to various barriers.
One such barrier that has not been as widely documented yet is the uncertainty towards the financial cost of life cycle GHG emission reduction. There has been an increase in studies that have included both the environmental and financial assessment of a building or building systems over its expected lifetime.
These studies often use the economic methodology called life cycle costing (LCC), that complements the life cycle approach of LCA, to help quantify the financial impact of a project. However most of these studies either base their results on exemplary low energy buildings, not traditional buildings that dominate the built fabric.
In addition there is a trend to primarily focus on residential buildings, leaving other building typologies neglected. Other aspects to notice from these studies include the fact that most present findings of the life cycle energy impact, not life cycle GHG impact. There is also a need to use more comprehensive life cycle inventory data, such as hybrid, not just process data, to provide more comprehensive results. And lastly, most studies consider at new buildings, not refurbished or existing buildings.
LCA and LCC support each other from a life cycle perspective however there is still a need to further develop an approach to concurrently balance both economic and environmental performance to create a more sustainable built environment.
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