Relevance of including capital goods in the life cycle assessment of construction products


The development of representative Life Cycle Inventories (LCI) is fundamental to enable the use of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as a decision tool. Capital goods, such as buildings and machinery (infrastructure), are particularly difficult to determine and are therefore commonly based on rough estimates, even in international databases. The aim of this work is to explore the effects of considering capital goods on the Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) results of six construction products: sand, gravel, clinker, cement, concrete and concrete block. LCI are based on ecoinvent version 3.4 and impact assessment was done using the CML 1A baseline method. We compare the LCIA results with and without infrastructure by using the Monte Carlo analysis to account for the increase in total uncertainty caused by the inclusion of the highly uncertain capital goods flows. The difference between LCIA results with and without infrastructure is not significant for global warming, acidification, eutrophication, ozone depletion, photochemical oxidation and fossil fuels depletion; and is considered high for toxicity impact categories and abiotic elements depletion. However, these impact categories influenced by infrastructure have limited applicability for decision making in construction. Furthermore, changing capital goods is difficult due to required investments and therefore, unlikely to be a strategy for improving the environmental performance of construction products. Thus, we consider that the added value to LCA by the inclusion of capital goods is low, since uncertainty remains high, while the efforts to collect them are significant, thus questioning its inclusion in LCA studies and databases by default.

SILVA, Fernanda Belizario; YOSHIDA, Olga Satomi; DIESTELKAMP, Elisabeth Donega; OLIVEIRA, Luciana Alves de. Relevance of including capital goods in the life cycle assessment of construction products. Revista Latino-Americana em Avaliações do Ciclo de Vida, Ed.Especial, n.2, p.7-22, 2018.

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