Conselho Brasileiro de Construção Sustentável
- Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
- Stakeholder type: Major Group
- Submission Document: Download
- Additional Document:
Global Platform for Simplified Life Cycle Annalysis
Relevance of the theme
According to UNNEP SBCI, globally, buildings are responsible for 40% of annual energy consumption and up to 30% of all energy related greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. Collectively, this sector is responsible for one third of humanity?s resource consumption, including 12% of all fresh water use, and production of up to 40% of our solid waste.
According to UNEP?s - Climate Neutral Network Personal and commercial transport consumes
about 20% of the global energy supply, 80% of which comes from fossil fuels. Transport
infrastructure contributes to social and economic development by enabling trade and providing
opportunities for employment, education and leisure.
This data is a global estimate. More specific and detailed information is needed to enable the
sector to obtain information of the main impacts of each sector by country and by productive
We propose the establishment of an international panel, bringing together companies,
governments, academy and NGOs, to establish a Global Platform for Simplified Life Cycle
Assessment (LCA), which prioritizes thee main challenges of the global socio-environmental
agenda and can become a tool for decision making based on the sustainable development of the
The promotion of sustainability requires that the decisions to purchase products consider the
multiple environmental and social impacts throughout their life cycle. Today the amount of
information of these impacts are very limited, expensive and of difficult access. In most
developing countries information of local products are nonexistent. This lack of information
affects all levels of decision making, as strategic plans at national and international levels,
individual and community decisions, and even decisions including the international commercial
trade. This reality severely limits the effective engagement of industry, commerce, public sector
and consumers in general in promoting sustainability as proposed in Agenda 21.
The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), promoted by UNEP for several decades, is already a standard
tool too quantify the environmental impact of products. The integration of social impacts within
the scope is being carried out. Its concept is well established and standardized. The tool
integrates all environmental flows (inputs and outputs of materials in production processes),
which allows calculating the environmental impacts and identify the most relevant to each
product, as can fundament correct interventions in the process. However, with the proposed
scope of the LCA, its implementation process is expensive and complex because it requires the
measurement of a large number of variables, many of which require complex equipment and
highly specialized human resources that are unavailable in many regions and beyond the financial
reach of the majority of economic agents.
These facts have limited the spread of thee LCA. A few commercial databases are available in the
international market. These data bases include mainly information from developed countries and
even fewer companies that detail (environmental product declarations). Only a few countries
have public and free databases. In general, the process to update the information is slow, what
leads to a decision making based on outdated information. Most data is not detailed to the
companies level ass its application is beyond most of their technical and economic reach. This lack
of information eliminates the supplier?s choice based on environmental criteria. Consequently
the selection based on price and technical performance remains predominant. This lack of
information restricts competition based on sustainability and in many cases suppliers with
unsustainable practices gain in market. Finally, the absence of information on company level
environmental impacts is an obstacle to market promoted sustainability.
It is therefore a priority to build a free public system open to all society that manages a minimum
set of information which are consistent, verifiable and reliable, that is able to support decision of
acquisition of products based on multiple criteria, based on simplified life cycle assessment -
LCA s. This system should be developed, implemented and managed in a transparent way by
bringing together a coalition of government, businesses and the third sector. The effectiveness of
this system grows with the number of products and companies that take part on it. The chance of
success grows as the system has a simple implementation and simple maintenance which makes
it feasible for small businesses in developing countries. The simplicity makes it easy to update the
data, another key to its effectiveness.
To have an easy adoption throughout various countries, its implementation should be gradual,
starting with basic resources data on a national scale evolving too cover a growing share of the
products, and finally incorporating the results of individual companies. A number of aspects or
impacts should be included gradually, allowing countries, companies and their customers to learn
with the process. International trade level involvement demands standardized methodology, an
interconnected data base and universal access.
Although this type of support for a decision system is important too all sectors of the economy, it
is particularly a priority for the construction sector, which accounts thee largest share of
consumption of natural resources, waste generation, energy consumption and life quality.
Analysis of environmental performance of products are still being made using methodologies
(labels), based on criteria that promotes solutions considered of less impact and which were
elected by their authors. Consequently these tools give inconsistent results when compared with
each other and do not allow too minimize negative impacts on all projects. In markets where there
are multiple labels available it is possible for market players to select the most convenient tool to
reach the target. The adoption of labels produced in foreign countries with different realities
reduces even more the effectiveness of these initiatives, and can lead to incorrect decisions
because of the huge differences between socio environmental agenda between countries and
regions. A simple comparison of the CO2 content in electricity which varies an order of magnitude
between different countries expresses thee limit. Certification methodologies that are based on
quantitative information of the impacts along the life cycle of products used in the construction,
maintenance and operation off buildings are likely to provide consistent and relevant results. BIM
tools can facilitate this analysis, once the data exists.
A successful example of successes is the GHG Protocol. It has an approach to quantification impacts
that has gained support of companies, eleven in developing countries. The method opens the
possibility of using data that can be collected with relative ease, but also offers generic models to
estimate the application, although with more conservative results. The methodology has a
growing number of manuals and tools dedicated to specific production processes and
adaptations for different countries, which facilitates its application.
Having as a model the GHG Protocol Methodology, the development of a Simplified
Methodology for Life Cycle Analysis is a viable alternative too: measure the environmental
impact, make the data accessible and introduce a multiple environmental criteria decision as a
habit for decision makers.
Therefore, we propose the establishment of an International Panel that congregates business,
government, academy and NGOs, to establish a Global Platform for Assessment of Simplified
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), through a methodology that addresses the main challenges of the
socio environmental global agenda and that to becomes a tool for decision making with a focus
on sustainable development of the construction industry.