Variability of environmental impact of ready-mix concrete: a case study for Brazil


Life Cycle Assessment is a powerful tool towards sustainable construction, but it often relies on average impact results, failing to identify the dispersion of environmental impact among construction product manufacturers. This work presents cradle-to-gate impact results for ready-mix concrete production, based on primary data provided by several plants in Brazil, and the associated variability among plants and in the upstream processes of cement and sand production. Four compressive strength classes are considered. Concrete, cement and aggregates inventories are modeled with Brazilian information and other upstream processes are based on ecoinvent. EN 15804 impact categories are assessed. The ranges between minimum and maximum impact values can be as large as 7.2 times the average impact result of the analyzed sample, which shows that the variability among manufacturers is high and decisions based on average impacts may be highly misleading. For some impact categories, the differences among concrete plants (mix design, cement type and operational conditions) represent the highest contribution for variability, while for others the dominant variation comes from upstream processes, especially clinker production. These results indicate a high potential for process improvement and that manufacturer selection based on environmental performance can be an effective strategy for sustainable construction.

SILVA, Fernanda Belizario; OLIVEIRA, Luciana Alves de; YOSHIDA, Olga Satomi; JOHN, Vanderley Moacyr. Variability of environmental impact of ready-mix concrete: a case study for Brazil. In: SUSTAINABLE BUILT ENVIRONMENT CONFERENCE, SBE19, 2019, Graz, Austria. Proceedings… IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, v.323, 012132, 2019. 9p.

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