The Need for Life-Cycle Assessment in Buildings
Although LCA has been widely used in the building sector since 1990, and is an important tool for assessing buildings , it is less developed than in other industries, including perhaps the engineering and infrastructure sector. The building industry, governments, designers and researchers of buildings are all affected by the trend of sustainable production and eco-green strategies. The importance of obtaining environment-related product information by LCA is broadly recognized, and LCA is one of the tools to help achieve sustainable building practices. Applying LCA in the building sector has become a distinct working area within LCA practice. This is not only due to the complexity of buildings but also because of the following factors, which combine to make this sector unique in comparison to other complex products. First, buildings have long lifetimes, often more than 50 years, and it is difficult to predict the whole life-cycle from cradle-to-grave. Second, during its life span, the building may undergo many changes in its form and function, which can be as significant, or even more significant, than the original product. The ease with which changes can be made and the opportunity to minimize the environmental effects of changes are partly functions of the original design. Third, many of the environmental impacts of a building occur during its use. Proper design and material selection are critical to minimize those in-use environmental loads. Fourth, there are many stakeholders in the building industry. The designer, who makes the decisions about the final building or its required performance, does not produce the components, nor does he or she build the building. Traditionally, each building is unique and is designed as such. There is very little standardization in whole building design, so new choices have to be made for each specific situation.
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