University of Limerick
Cruz_Rios et al_2021_Why bother Environmental economic and social.pdf (346.33 kB)

Why Bother? Environmental and social implications of using durable building products

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conference contribution
posted on 2021-06-16, 08:31 authored by Fernanda Cruz Rios, Brieanne Berry, Cindy Isenhour, Joe Zappitelli, Vikas Khanna, Melissa M. Bilec
The circular economy (CE) has emerged with the promise of conserving resources through approaches such as durability and extended product lifetimes. At the same time, buildings negatively contribute to resource use and waste production, making buildings a key target for CE strategies. However, the question of how durability and lifetimes affect the social and environmental impacts of building products remains largely unexplored. In this study, we applied environmental and social life cycle assessments (E-LCA and S-LCA, respectively) to a common building component, roof covering, to investigate the effects of durability and different lifespans, and the tradeoffs between social and environmental impacts. We tested different lifespan scenarios for three materials with different durability: thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO), zinc-coated steel, and galvanized aluminum sheets. The results suggest that it is critical to consider the tradeoffs of social and environmental benefits: steel had the most promising social performance, followed closely by aluminum, while the least durable material (TPO) had the worst environmental and social performance. However, the environmental impacts resulting from the production of aluminum sheets were significantly lower than the impacts from steel, which made aluminum the preferred choice for this case study. Moreover, product lifespans impacted the results in both E-LCA and S-LCA due to the number of replacements needed over the life of a 100- year building. We discuss key limitations of integrating E-LCA and S-LCA approaches, such as data aggregation and spatial issues, lack of standards on how to account for product durability, and concerns surrounding S-LCA results interpretation.



4th PLATE 2021 Virtual Conference, 26-28 May 2021;



Other Funding information

National Science Foundation



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