Evaluating the Environmental Impact Score of a Residential Building Using Life Cycle Assessment

Evaluating the Environmental Impact Score of a Residential Building Using Life Cycle Assessment

Manish Sakhlecha (National Institute of Technology, Raipur, India), Samir Bajpai (National Institute of Technology, Raipur, India) and Rajesh Kumar Singh (Thinkstep Sustainability Solutions Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, India)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSESD.2019100101


Buildings consume major amount of energy as well as natural resources leading to negative environmental impacts like resource depletion and pollution. The current task for the construction sector is to develop an evaluation tool for rating of buildings based on their environmental impacts. There are various assessment tools and models developed by different agencies in different countries to evaluate building's effect on environment. Although these tools have been successfully used and implemented in the respective regions of their origin, the problems of application occur, especially during regional adaptation in other countries due to peculiarities associated with the specific geographic location, climatic conditions, construction methods and materials. India is a rapidly growing economy with exponential increase in housing sector. Impact assessment model for a residential building has been developed based on life cycle assessment (LCA) framework. The life cycle impact assessment score was obtained for a sample house considering fifteen combinations of materials paired with 100% thermal electricity and 70%-30% thermal-solar combination, applying normalization and weighting to the LCA results. The LCA score of portland slag cement with burnt clay red brick and 70%-30% thermal-solar combination (PSC+TS+RB) was found to have the best score and ordinary Portland cement with flyash brick and 100% thermal power (OPC+T+FAB) had the worst score, showing the scope for further improvement in LCA model to include positive scores for substitution of natural resources with industrial waste otherwise polluting the environment.
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1. Introduction

Sustainability for construction projects like buildings mostly involves sustainability of sites and the efficiency in use of water, low energy consumption, use of less building materials, improvement of environment, and innovative design processes (U.S. Green Building Council, 2009). Buildings consume major amount of energy as well as natural resources leading to negative environmental impacts like resource depletion and substantial pollution. About 40% of stone, sand and gravel, 25% of timber, 16% of water and 40% of fossil fuel energies are being consumed by buildings worldwide every year (Arena & Rosa, 2003). As environmental problems are becoming crucial, we need more inclusive building evaluation methods to evaluate building's performance over a large range of parameters encompassing not only environmental impacts but also sustainability. The challenge for building sector, especially in developing countries, is to implement sustainability measures based on objective assessment of the environmental effects of buildings and ensure sustainability. The evaluation methods for most buildings earlier were mostly concerned with only a single parameter such as energy use, comfortable indoor conditions, and indoor air quality (Cooper, 1999; Kohler, 1999). With continuous development, the field of environmental performance assessment of buildings has increased rapidly with number of tools being developed or being used now. However, majority of such tools are voluntary and motivational. Building environment assessment (BEA) has improved after the UK Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) in 1990 was introduced (Crawley and Aho, 1999). BEA tools have been classified by Reijnders and Van Rockel (1999) into two types—criteria-based assessment and life cycle assessment (LCA) based assessment.

1.1. Criteria Based Assessment Tools

Criteria based assessment tools provide credits based on fulfillment of certain set of criteria and rate buildings based on total credit and are regarded as qualitative tools. Main categories of criteria-based assessment groups in which buildings can obtain credits are: water efficiency, site sustainability, atmosphere and energy, indoor environment quality, resources and materials used. Table 1 lists the percentage weightage of assessment criteria for some of the assessment tools like BREEAM, LEED, GREENSTAR, SB TOOL and GRIHA, used in India (Sev, 2011, GRIHA Manual Vol. 1, 2010).

Table 1.
Percentage weightages for different criteria in different tools
S. No.CriteriaBREEAM EuropeBREEAM GulfLEED USAGreen Star AustraliaSB Tool CanadaGRIHA IndiaLEED India
1Sustainable Sites9720681519
2Water Efficiency828711159
3Materials and Resources12.5919181419
4Indoor Environment Quality15172218221522
5Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resources19112518223524
7Innovation and Design737
8Social and Economic Aspect5
9Cultural and Perceptual Aspect3

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