Ever since our conception, we have paid attention to novelty parts of construction management that others may consider as unnecessary, or at least not absolutely important. Life Cycle Assessment is one of those things, and it is an indispensable component of our work in all of our previous projects. But what is LCA exactly?
From the extraction of raw materials to their manufacturing, their use in the construction of buildings, the operation of these buildings and their maintenance, and to the end with the demolition, this is the total life cycle. Standards such as the ISO 14040, the methods and guidelines of which we follow in order to measure the life cycle of a building define life cycle as the “compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout the duration of its life”.
The importance of LCA
Why is it important to consider a building’s LCA and why is KEN spending time and resources to do it? There are multiple important reasons why it’s crucial to determine and report on the LCA to the stakeholders, so here are the four major of them:
• Promoting sustainable engineering practices in real projects and not just in promotional material that has marketing targets. KEN International is conducting tangible work to help society prosper, economy grow, and the environment to stay healthy and protected.
• LCA reports help contractors get to know how to prevent issues relating to environmental factors, waste management, etc.
• Home builders can get a clear picture of how energy and resource savings are achieved through sustainable engineering design and construction.
• Building owners are happy with their investment, seeing that the impact of their creation on the environment is minimal.
For KEN International, LCA has another important function which is to drive our internal team’s innovation. LCA reports often unveil opportunities to increase efficiency and/or quality on a specific step, and this further increases our efficiency and budget effectiveness. Finally, it can potentially help us make more solid decisions during the design and construction phases.
How we determine LCA
We determine the context of LCA by considering the guidelines of ISO 14040, 14041, 14044, EN 15804, and EN 15978. Simply put, these standards provide the guidelines on how to analyze the impacts of all factors to the surrounding environment. This spans from the extraction of a material, to its maintenance, and to the end of its service which comes with the demolition.
The software tools that we use for this evaluation (analysis, impact assessment, results) include the following:
• BEES – For material LCA comparison and evaluation
• Athena and eQuest – For whole building LCA
• Ecoinvent – Database for environmental-orientated choice support
• CEDST – For structure of selection table for segment table/level
• BREEAM – For overall life cycle cost and service life planning
How we improve LCA
Evaluating LCA is one thing, improving it is another. Of course, KEN International has already accumulated enough experience to be able to take proactive action to improve LCA during even the first stages of pre-execution planning, and one realization or success on a previous work is leading our way on the next project. Here are the main ways through which we achieve a decisive improvement of LCA:
• Opting to use higher quality building materials that are environment-friendly and have a relatively low environmental impact on the long term.
• We use comfortable safety factors during the building design, minimizing the need for maintenance and the associated energy losses.
• We minimize fuel and water consumption, both during the construction phase and during the operation of the building.
• We take all measures possible to bring C02 emissions to the lowest possible levels achievable. This concerns both the construction phase and the operation of the building, and of course, our consideration also includes the manufacturing process of the selected materials.
• Dust emission is another critical factor for LCA, so we take all precautions that have the potential to tone it down to a minimum.
• Finally, we minimize the produce waste on the construction site, following all of the established recycling methods. Moreover, we consider waste rates during manufacturing when selecting our materials.