Environmental life cycle impacts on an industrial building in Finland

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Insinööritieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
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Creative Sustainability in Real Estate
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Master’s Degree Programme in Real Estate Economics
87 + 3
Buildings and construction activities account for a notable share of total energy con-sumption, greenhouse gas emissions, waste production and use of virgin materials over their life cycle in Finland and globally. Legislation and regulation concerning these issues is becoming stricter and the industry is also developing voluntary actions to tackle these problems. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool that helps quantifying the environmental impacts over the whole building life cycle, without burden shifting. Industrial buildings constitute 11 % of Finnish construction stock but so far their envi-ronmental performance hasn’t been studied and addressed as much as residential and office buildings. The main objective of this research is to quantify the environmental impacts caused by an industrial building over its whole life cycle, using process-LCA. The results show, that the overall lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions - expressed in global warming potential - of the case study building reach 2.68E+07 kg CO2 eq. 79 % of these are building operation related, and 21 % are embodied in construction materials. The results are in line with previous research assessing residential and office buildings. Construction and real estate industry actors were also interviewed as part of this study to find out why and how LCAs are included in actual construction projects. Even though LCA as a tool is becoming more known, its use in actual projects is still quite rare. This is mostly due to the fact that life-cycle thinking is not working in practice within the industry, and that the utilization rate of the LCA results is still quite low mainly because they are difficult to communicate to clients and other stakeholders. Based on interviews, the industry actors do not believe that thorough and detailed building life cycle assessments are relevant for industry use today, but the amount of LCA studies is estimated to increase in future. LCA industry has developed multiple software tools to calculate environmental life cycle impacts of goods and services. The industrial building material production impacts were calculated using three available LCA software tools, to find out whether the selection of the tool significantly affects the results. Even though the selected tools all use different database and have varying features and abilities, the results obtained are of the same magnitude for the whole building as well as the main building elements.
Junnila, Seppo
Thesis advisor
Säynäjoki, Antti
Rantanen, Paula
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), industrial building, environmental impacts, LCA tools
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