Use of Life Cycle Assessments in the Construction Sector: Critical Review

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Abstract

A life cycle assessment (LCA) is an internationally accepted and useful tool to assess the environmental impact of products. In this paper, the use of LCA in the construction sector has been critically analyzed. The analysis is based on specific literature cases and different standards and frameworks. As an example, a detailed comparison of four LCA studies for structural concrete is presented. LCA is one of the most promising techniques for an ecological design of products. However, in order to appeal to the benefits of LCA, it is important to know how to use LCA properly. From the review in this article it becomes clear that the LCA research is still in a fragmented state, due to the existence of various unspecific guidelines and different interpretations of those guidelines. Since for example the international standards on LCA, ISO 14040/44, only provide a global framework, and no exact technique to calculate environmental impacts, it is possible to create an LCA with different boundary conditions. Hence, a valuable comparison between distinct LCAs is difficult. Comparisons should thus thoughtfully be performed, taking into account all information about the LCAs under study. When this background information is communicated transparently, LCAs can be interpreted correctly.

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Dossche, C., Boel, V., & De Corte, W. (2017). Use of Life Cycle Assessments in the Construction Sector: Critical Review. In Procedia Engineering (Vol. 171, pp. 302–311). Elsevier Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeng.2017.01.338

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