Life cycle assessment in construction

Life Cycle Assessment of products is a method of assessing the environmental impact of products at all stages of its life cycle, starting from the extraction of raw materials, moving into production, use, repair and maintenance, transportation at all stages, as well as disposal or recycling of waste.

The main categories of environmental impact according to ISO 14040 are:

  • global warming potential,
  • destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer,
  • formation of tropospheric ozone,
  • oxidation of water resources and soils,
  • eutrophication (harmful rapid reproduction of algae in reservoirs – see the image below),
  • depletion of non-renewable energy sources (oil, gas, coal).


Carbon footprint in green construction

The amount of greenhouse gas emissions from buildings is estimated at different phases of the building’s life cycle. For example, at the operational stage, the most important is the energy efficiency of the building. The more energy efficient a building is, the less emissions it produces. At the same time, the latest generation of international green building standards, such as LEED, BREEAM, DGNB, also take into account greenhouse gas emissions from buildings even before their construction. Namely, emissions and negative impact on the environment from the extraction, production, operation and disposal of building materials. For example, a building may be energy efficient and well insulated, but the energy consumption for the production of additional insulation may be greater than the energy savings of the building at the operational stage.

Thus, by analyzing the life cycle of buildings, we move from assessing the energy efficiency of individual facilities to energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of the industry as a whole.


For example, in addition to the assessment of energy efficiency in the LEED v4 system, new criteria for assessing the life cycle of buildings have appeared:

  • Analysis of the life cycle of the building and building materials used in the construction of the building
  • The use of materials in construction that have environmental declarations for materials (EPD – Environmental Product Declarations)


EPD – Environmental Product Declarations – environmental declaration for products. The EPD is a document that calculates environmental indicators of emissions and resource consumption throughout the production chain for construction products.

Responsible manufacturers of building materials (for example, Saint-Gobain, Knauf, Rockwool, Lafarge, Henkel, BASF) evaluate the life cycle of their products and issue a report document – EPD. This document is independently verified and published in the open database Environmdec, as well as in databases of special software such as Impact, Athena, One-click LCA.

HPBS is a partner of Environmdec and conducts an independent assessment of the life cycle of construction products.

Databases of data and tools used in environmental impact assessment during the product life cycle.

There are several generally recognized databases and tools on the market that contain information about the calculated values of the impact of various categories on the environment: Sima Pro, Gabi, One Click LCA, IMPACT, Athena


Standards used in assessing the carbon footprint in construction

The following basic standards are used in the assessment of the carbon layer:

  • ISO 14040:2006 Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Principles and framework; Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Principles and basic criteria
  • ISO 14044:2006 (Add.1:2017) Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Requirements and guidelines. Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Requirements and Guidelines
  • ISO/TS 14071:2014. Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Critical review processes and reviewer competencies: Additional requirements and guidelines to ISO 14044:2006. Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Additional requirements and guidelines to ISO 14044:2006
  • PAS 2050 and ISO TS 14067-2013 Greenhouse gases — Carbon footprint of products — Requirements and guidelines for quantification and communication. Greenhouse gases. Carbon footprint of products. Requirements and guidelines for quantification and provision of information (Russian equivalent – GOST R 56276-2014 /ISO/TS 14067:2013). ISO 14067 establishes principles, requirements and guidelines for quantifying the carbon footprint of products based on life cycle assessment in accordance with international standards of the ISO 14040 series, as well as requirements for providing information to interested parties in the form of environmental declarations in accordance with international standards ISO 14020 and ISO 14025
  • BS EN 15978:2011 Sustainability of construction works. Assessment of environmental performance of buildings. Calculation method. Stability of construction works. Assessment of environmental characteristics of buildings. Calculation method.


Steps to assess the life cycle of a building:

In principle, the following analysis is carried out to optimize the life cycle of a building:

  • selection of materials with lower impact according to EPD declarations
  • optimization of mass and types of construction
  • reuse of materials

The final values for the life cycle impact are calculated based on the volume of application of different types of materials and data on the environmental impact of applicable materials from EPD and databases.

According to the international LEED standard, life cycle optimization is considered successful if in three of the six categories a reduction of the ecological footprint of at least 10% was achieved and an increase of no more than 5% in any other categories. Also, reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a mandatory category for reducing environmental impact.


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