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Book ChapterDOI

Introduction to the environmental impact of construction and building materials

01 Jan 2014-Iss: 1, pp 1-10

Abstract: Earth’s natural resources are finite and face increasing human pressure. Over the last few decades, concern has been growing about resource efficiency and the environmental impact of material consumption. The construction industry is responsible for the consumption of a relevant part of all produced materials, however, only recently has this industry started to worry about its environmental impacts. This chapter highlights relevant landmarks on sustainable development, materials efficiency and on the assessment of the environmental impact of construction products. An overview on the European Construction Products Regulation (CPR) enforced since the 1 July 2013 is given followed by an outline of the book.
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Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Re reuse benefits depended on aggressive reuse rates (>70%) and multiple reuses of steel were needed to offset the embodied environmental impacts during steel production, and the analyses showed that process-based LCA and hybrid LCA can generate conflicting results in a C2C LCA.
Abstract: The construction industry consumes 40% of the global materials and produces one of the largest waste streams in the planet. In a circular economy, the reuse of building components in multiple life cycles aims at increasing resource efficiency and eliminating waste. But can reuse offset the environmental impacts of materials with high embodied energy (e.g. steel)? If so, in what conditions? In the study presented in this paper, the authors used two different life cycle assessment (LCA) methods to compare a single-use wood-framed wall against a reusable steel-framed wall in a tiny house in the U.S. The analyzed impact categories were global warming potential, embodied energy, and water use. One of the main goals of this study was to understand the benefits of reusing a material with high embodied energy when compared to a single-use alternative. Another equally important objective was to understand how different LCA methods can influence the results in a cradle-to-cradle (C2C) LCA. As results, reuse benefits depended on aggressive reuse rates (>70%) and multiple reuses of steel were needed to offset the embodied environmental impacts during steel production. Also, the analyses showed that process-based LCA and hybrid LCA can generate conflicting results in a C2C LCA.

21 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: The properties of fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) composites have led to a significant increase of civil engineering applications based on the usage of these materials. In the construction sector, FRP are mainly used for strengthening existing buildings, thus creating the possibility of avoiding the environmental problems resulting from demolishing these structures and constructing new ones. In the light of this new opportunity, the present paper aims at evaluating and comparing the environmental performances of an unstrengthened reinforced concrete (RC) beam with those of different carbon fibre-reinforced polymer (CFRP) flexural strengthening techniques. The paper uses Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology in order to determine the most environmentally friendly solution in the case of an existing RC beam which does not properly satisfy the structural demands. The authors have decided to use the Cradle-to-Gate LCA type of study, considering that the primary goal of the paper is to establish whether strengthening and reusing an existing RC beam can be considered a more viable environmentally friendly proposal in contrast with demolishing the existing structural element and constructing a new one. The following impact categories are used with the purpose of achieving a clear understanding of the products’ environmental influence: Climate Change, Human Toxicity, and Ozone Depletion. Their environmental performances are evaluated using the GaBi 6 software. The obtained results show that all the assessed CFRP strengthening solutions have a significantly lower environmental impact in comparison with those of the RC beam. In the case of the analysed RC structural element, the highest impact is attributed to the manufacturing stage of the cement and to the steel reinforcements. In most of the CFRP strengthening schemes, the environmental impact is mainly influenced by the amount of component materials (fibre and resin) used for manufacturing the considered composite elements. The resulted values for the environmental parameters in the assessed case studies encourage the authors to assert that the usage of composite materials in specific civil engineering applications can represent an environmentally friendly solution. The environmental aspect of sustainability can thus be achieved in this industry by using particular FRP strengthening applications. Moreover, the negative effects of modern society over Earth can be reduced. The paper concludes that the usage of composite materials can represent an important step towards the sustainable development of the construction sector.

16 citations


Cites background from "Introduction to the environmental i..."

  • ...…2014; Ewing et al. 2010; Ingrao et al. 2014; Marinkovic et al. 2014; Maxineasa and Taranu 2013; Messari-Becker et al. 2013; Miller and Ip 2013; Pacheco-Torgal and Labrincha 2013; Pacheco-Torgal 2014; Rossi 2014; Simion et al. 2013; Solis-Guzman et al. 2014; Tautsching and Burtscher 2013; Yao 2013)....

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  • ...With regards to the developed countries, the condition of the existing building stock represents an important environmental issue (Bingel and Bown 2009; Hirst 2013; Ibbotson and Kara 2013; Motavalli et al. 2010; Napolano et al. 2015; Pacheco-Torgal and Labrincha 2013; Pacheco-Torgal 2014)....

    [...]

  • ...stock represents an important environmental issue (Bingel and Bown 2009; Hirst 2013; Ibbotson and Kara 2013; Motavalli et al. 2010; Napolano et al. 2015; Pacheco-Torgal and Labrincha 2013; Pacheco-Torgal 2014)....

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  • ...This field uses annually between 40 and 50 % of all raw materials extracted worldwide, and is also responsible for: over 40 % of the total greenhouse gases emissions, for approximately 40 % of the global energy consumption and for producing about 25 % of the entire amount of waste (Ding 2014; Ewing et al. 2010; Ingrao et al. 2014; Marinkovic et al. 2014; Maxineasa and Taranu 2013; Messari-Becker et al. 2013; Miller and Ip 2013; Pacheco-Torgal and Labrincha 2013; Pacheco-Torgal 2014; Rossi 2014; Simion et al. 2013; Solis-Guzman et al. 2014; Tautsching and Burtscher 2013; Yao 2013)....

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: In reflecting on the human domination of our planet in the Anthropocene, some have argued that concrete is among the most destructive materials created by humans. Here we explore this idea, specifically in the context of what we consider “the concrete conquest of aquatic ecosystems.” The ubiquitous use of concrete in transportation and building infrastructure has contributed to alterations in freshwater and coastal marine systems. Yet, in some cases, there are no appropriate alternative building materials such that concrete itself is confounded by its application. For example, as the foundation for most dams, concrete fragments rivers and channelizes streams, often creating unnatural systems, yet dams are necessary for hydropower generation and flood control with few alternative materials for construction. In riparian and coastal environments, concrete harbours and inland canal systems are often used to address erosion or reclaim areas for human development. Even when removed (e.g., dam removal, naturalization of shorelines), concrete dust is a major aquatic pollutant. Instances do exist, however, where concrete has been used to benefit aquatic ecosystems – such as the installation of fish passage facilities at barriers or the development of fish-friendly culverts – though even then, there is a movement towards nature-like fishways that avoid the use of harmful materials like concrete. There are also opportunities to achieve conservation gains in the development of seawalls that include more natural and complex features to benefit biota and allow for essential biogeochemical processes to occur in aquatic environments. There have been several innovations in recent years that increase the permeability of concrete, however these have limited application in an aquatic context (e.g., not relevant to dam construction or erosion control but may be relevant in stormwater management systems). We provide a brief overview of the history of concrete, discuss some of the direct and indirect effects of concrete on aquatic ecosystems, and encourage planners, engineers, developers, and regulators to work collaboratively to explore alternatives to concrete which benefit aquatic ecosystems and the services they offer. The status quo of concrete being the default construction material is failing aquatic ecosystems, so we recommend that efforts are made to explore alternative materials and if concrete must be used, to increase structural complexity to benefit biodiversity.

8 citations


Cites methods from "Introduction to the environmental i..."

  • ...By applying LCA to concrete, it is possible to optimize social, economic, and environmental aspects, from ‘cradle to grave’ (Pacheco-Torgal, 2014) or ‘cradle to cradle’ (McDonough and Braungart, 2010)....

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01 Jan 2017
Abstract: Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC) consumption has grown nearly exponentially in the last twenty years. OPC has become the highest-volume manufactured product on the planet. Production of OPC is energy-intensive, consumes unrenewable natural resources and is one of the primary contributors to global warming (accounting for at least 5-8% of worldwide anthropogenic CO2 emissions). An alternative for OPC concrete is Alkali-Activated Concrete (AAC), for which Portland cement is completely substituted by an alternative binder. Instead of using OPC and water, precursors (raw materials) like Blast Furnace Slag (BFS) or Fly Ash (FA) are activated with an alkaline activator solution. Although AAC seems to have promising qualities for structural application in terms of sustainability, worldwide use is not yet established. One of the reasons for this is the fact that there are no available regulations or codes to apply it, the material is relatively new and limited research has been conducted. For OPC concrete, the design codes are based on compressive strength at 28 days (strength at later ages stays either constant or is higher) and most other mechanical properties used in calculations are estimated based on this compressive strength. For AAC it is not yet sure if the same relations and assumptions as for OPC are also valid. First, because mechanical properties that have been reported for AAC in literature vary a lot, depending on mixture composition and curing conditions. Second, the long-term strength development of AAC is scarcely investigated and it is not clear if the compressive strength at 28 days can be used as a safe reference for design. Namely, a few researchers reported a decrease of strength or stiffness over time, for AAC mixtures that contain blast furnace slag. The observed decrease might not be a very desirable phenomenon and should be well-understood prior to wider structural application of AAC. Therefore, the main research question of this thesis is: Can a decrease of stiffness and strength over time, as sometimes reported in literature for AAC, also be found for AAC used at TU Delft and if so, what could be an explanation for this behaviour? Does the amount of BFS in the binder play a role, as a decrease over time has only been reported for AAC containing BFS? And if not, what other cause could lead to a decrease of properties over time? The intention is to make some first steps towards a better understanding of this phenomenon. The research question is investigated in an experimental manner. Compressive strength, elastic modulus, splitting tensile strength and flexural strength are tested at different ages (28, 56 and 91 days) after being wet-cured (20°C and 95% RH) for 28 days. Two different AAC mixtures are investigated, S100 and S50, characterized by a BFS/FA binder ratio of 100:0 and 50:50 respectively. Furthermore, the flexural behaviour of reinforced beams is investigated by conducting four-point bending tests on both S100 and S50 concrete of two different ages (33/34 days and 69/70 days) and compared to an OPC concrete control beam.

6 citations


Cites background from "Introduction to the environmental i..."

  • ...Problem statement Most of the research that has been conducted regarding the engineering properties of alkali-activated concrete shows promising results, alkali-activated concrete can show even better performance than Portland cement concretes (Pacheco-Torgal, 2014)....

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  • ...Problem statement Most of the research that has been conducted regarding the engineering properties of alkali-activated concrete shows promising results, alkali-activated concrete can show even better performance than Portland cement concretes (Pacheco-Torgal, 2014)....

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Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: The main goal of this study was to review current studies on the state of the art of wood constructions with a particular focus on energy efficiency, which could serve as a valuable source of information for both industry and scholars. This review begins with an overview of the role of materials in wood buildings to improve energy performance, covering structural and insulation materials that have already been successfully used in the market for general applications over the years. Subsequently, studies of different wood building systems (i.e., wood-frame, post-and-beam, mass timber and hybrid constructions) and energy efficiency are discussed. This is followed by a brief introduction to strategies to increase the energy efficiency of constructions. Finally, remarks and future research opportunities for wood buildings are highlighted. Some general recommendations for developing more energy-efficient wood buildings are identified in the literature and discussed. There is a lack of emerging construction concepts for wood-frame and post-and-beam buildings and a lack of design codes and specifications for mass timber and hybrid buildings. From the perspective of the potential environmental benefits of these systems as a whole, and their effects on energy efficiency and embodied energy in constructions, there are barriers that need to be considered in the future.

3 citations


References
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Book
01 Jan 1972
Abstract: Every person approaches problems with the help of models. A model is simply an ordered set of assumptions about a complex system. Our world model was built specifically to investigate five major trends of global concern—accelerating industrialization, rapid population growth, widespread malnutrition, depletion of nonrenewable resources, and a deteriorating environment. It is possible to alter the growth trends and to establish a condition of ecological and economic stability that is sustainable far into the future. The state of global equilibrium could be designed so that the basic material needs of each person on earth are satisfied and each person has an equal opportunity to realize his individual human potential. Although the history of human effort contains numerous incidents of mankind's failure to live within physical limits, it is success in overcoming limits that forms the cultural tradition of many dominant people in today's world.

5,309 citations



Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: The growing industrial metabolism is a major driver of global environmental change. We present an assessment of the global use of materials since the beginning of the 20th century based on the conceptual and methodological principles of material flow accounting (MFA). On the grounds of published statistical data, data compilations and estimation procedures for material flows not covered by international statistical sources, we compiled a quantitative estimate of annual global extraction of biomass, fossil energy carriers, metal ores, industrial minerals and construction minerals for the period 1900 to 2005. This period covers important phases of global industrialisation and economic growth. The paper analyses the observed changes in the overall size and composition of global material flows in relation to the global economy, population growth and primary energy consumption. We show that during the last century, global materials use increased 8-fold. Humanity currently uses almost 60 billion tons (Gt) of materials per year. In particular, the period after WWII was characterized by rapid physical growth, driven by both population and economic growth. Within this period there was a shift from the dominance of renewable biomass towards mineral materials. Materials use increased at a slower pace than the global economy, but faster than world population. As a consequence, material intensity (i.e. the amount of materials required per unit of GDP) declined, while materials use per capita doubled from 4.6 to 10.3 t/cap/yr. The main material groups show different trajectories. While biomass use hardly keeps up with population growth, the mineral fractions grow at a rapid pace. We show that increases in material productivity are mostly due to the slow growth of biomass use, while they are much less pronounced for the mineral fractions. So far there is no evidence that growth of global materials use is slowing down or might eventually decline and our results indicate that an increase in material productivity is a general feature of economic development.

830 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: For most materials used to provide buildings, infrastructure, equipment and products, global stocks are still sufficient to meet anticipated demand, but the environmental impacts of materials production and processing, particularly those related to energy, are rapidly becoming critical. These impacts can be ameliorated to some extent by the ongoing pursuit of efficiencies within existing processes, but demand is anticipated to double in the next 40 years, and this will lead to an unacceptable increase in overall impacts unless the total requirement for material production and processing is reduced. This is the goal of material efficiency, and this paper aims to stimulate interest in the area. Four major strategies for reducing material demand through material efficiency are discussed: longer-lasting products; modularisation and remanufacturing; component re-use; designing products with less material. In industrialised nations, these strategies have had little attention, because of economic, regulatory and social barriers, which are each examined. However, evidence from waste management and the pursuit of energy efficiency suggests that these barriers might be overcome, and an outline of potential mechanisms for change is given. In bringing together insights into material efficiency from a wide range of disciplines, the paper presents a set of 20 open questions for future work.

599 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) is a field of active development. The last decade has seen prolific publication of new impact assessment methods covering many different impact categories and providing characterization factors that often deviate from each other for the same substance and impact. The LCA standard ISO 14044 is rather general and unspecific in its requirements and offers little help to the LCA practitioner who needs to make a choice. With the aim to identify the best among existing characterization models and provide recommendations to the LCA practitioner, a study was performed for the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC). Existing LCIA methods were collected and their individual characterization models identified at both midpoint and endpoint levels and supplemented with other environmental models of potential use for LCIA. No new developments of characterization models or factors were done in the project. From a total of 156 models, 91 were short listed as possible candidates for a recommendation within their impact category. Criteria were developed for analyzing the models within each impact category. The criteria addressed both scientific qualities and stakeholder acceptance. The criteria were reviewed by external experts and stakeholders and applied in a comprehensive analysis of the short-listed characterization models (the total number of criteria varied between 35 and 50 per impact category). For each impact category, the analysis concluded with identification of the best among the existing characterization models. If the identified model was of sufficient quality, it was recommended by the JRC. Analysis and recommendation process involved hearing of both scientific experts and stakeholders. Recommendations were developed for 14 impact categories at midpoint level, and among these recommendations, three were classified as “satisfactory” while ten were “in need of some improvements” and one was so weak that it has “to be applied with caution.” For some of the impact categories, the classification of the recommended model varied with the type of substance. At endpoint level, recommendations were only found relevant for three impact categories. For the rest, the quality of the existing methods was too weak, and the methods that came out best in the analysis were classified as “interim,” i.e., not recommended by the JRC but suitable to provide an initial basis for further development. The level of characterization modeling at midpoint level has improved considerably over the last decade and now also considers important aspects like geographical differentiation and combination of midpoint and endpoint characterization, although the latter is in clear need for further development. With the realization of the potential importance of geographical differentiation comes the need for characterization models that are able to produce characterization factors that are representative for different continents and still support aggregation of impact scores over the whole life cycle. For the impact categories human toxicity and ecotoxicity, we are now able to recommend a model, but the number of chemical substances in common use is so high that there is a need to address the substance data shortage and calculate characterization factors for many new substances. Another unresolved issue is the need for quantitative information about the uncertainties that accompany the characterization factors. This is still only adequately addressed for one or two impact categories at midpoint, and this should be a focus point in future research. The dynamic character of LCIA research means that what is best practice will change quickly in time. The characterization methods presented in this paper represent what was best practice in 2008–2009.

504 citations


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No. of citations received by the Paper in previous years
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20213
20205
20191
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20151