Embodied GHG emissions of buildings - Critical reflection of benchmark comparison and in-depth analysis of drivers

Martin Röck*, Maria Balouktsi, Marcella Ruschi Mendes Saade, Freja Nygaard Rasmussen, Endrit Hoxha, Harpa Birgisdottir, Rolf Frischknecht, Guillaume Habert, Alexander Passer, Thomas Lützkendorf


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In the face of the unfolding climate crisis, the role and importance of reducing Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the building sector is increasing. This study investigates the global trends of GHG emissions occurring across the life cycle of buildings by systematically compiling life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and analysing more than 650 building cases. Based on the data extracted from these LCA studies, the influence of features related to LCA methodology and building design is analysed. Results show that embodied GHG emissions, which mainly arise from manufacturing and processing of building materials, are dominating life cycle emissions of new, advanced buildings. Analysis of GHG emissions at the time of occurrence, shows the upfront ‘carbon spike’ and emphasises the need to address and reduce the GHG ‘investment’ for new buildings. Comparing the results with existing life cycle-related benchmarks, we find only a small number of cases meeting the benchmark. Critically reflecting on the benchmark comparison, an in-depth analysis reveals different reasons for cases achieving the benchmark. While one would expect that different building design strategies and material choices lead to high or low embodied GHG emissions, the results mainly correlate with decisions related to LCA methodology, i.e. the scope of the assessments. The results emphasize the strong need for transparency in the reporting of LCA studies as well as need for consistency when applying environmental benchmarks. Furthermore, the paper opens up the discussion on the potential of utilizing big data and machine learning for analysis and prediction of environmental performance of buildings.
TitelConference Proceedings : World Sustainable Built Environment online conference BEYOND 2020 : 2- 4 November 2020
RedaktørerHolger Wallbaum, Alexander Hollberg, Liane Thuvander, Paula Femenias, Izabela Kurkowska, Kristina Mjörnell, Colin Fudge
Antal sider8
ForlagIOP Publishing
Publikationsdato20 nov. 2020
StatusUdgivet - 20 nov. 2020
BegivenhedWorld Sustainable Built Environment - Beyond 2020, WSBE 2020 - Gothenburg, Sverige
Varighed: 2 nov. 20204 nov. 2020


KonferenceWorld Sustainable Built Environment - Beyond 2020, WSBE 2020
SponsorAutodesk Construction Cloud, Bona, Construction Industry Council, et al., HKGBC, Skanska
NavnIOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science
Nummer3 (1.06 – 1.10)

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
The analysis and results described in this paper relate to ongoing research within the international project IEA EBC Annex 72, which focuses on Assessing Life Cycle Related Environmental Impacts Caused by Buildings (http://annex72.iea-ebc.org). The Austrian contribution is financially supported by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT), IEA Research Cooperation via the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) Grant #864142. Martin Röck is the recipient of a DOC Fellowship of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. The authors thank the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback, which helped improve the paper.

Publisher Copyright:
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