The role of electricity mix and production efficiency improvements on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of building components and future refurbishment measures
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Purpose An estimation of the environmental impact of buildings by means of a life cycle assessment (LCA) raises uncertainty related to the parameters that are subject to major changes over longer time spans. The main aim of the present study is to evaluate the influence of modifications in the electricity mix and the production efficiency in the chosen reference year on the embodied impacts (i.e., greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions) of building materials and components and the possible impact of
... s on future refurbishment measures. Methods A new LCA methodological approach was developed and implemented that can have a significant impact on the way in which existing buildings are assessed at the end of their service lives. The electricity mixes of different reference years were collected and assessed, and the main datasets and sub-datasets were modified according to the predefined substitution criteria. The influence of the electricity-mix modification and production efficiency were illustrated on a selected existing reference building, built in 1970. The relative contribution of the electricity mix to the embodied impact of the production phase was calculated for four different electricity mixes, with this comprising the electricity mix from 1970, the current electricity mix and two possible future electricity-mix scenarios for 2050. The residual value of the building was also estimated. Results and discussion In the case presented, the relative share of the electricity mix GHG emission towards the total value was as high as 20% for separate building components. If this electricity mix is replaced with an electricity mix having greater environmental emissions, the relative contribution of the electricity mix to the total emissions can be even higher. When, by contrast, the modified electricity mix is almost decarbonized, the relative contribution to the total emissions may well be reduced to a point where it becomes negligible. The modification of the electricity mix can also influence the residual value of a building. In the observed case, the differences due to different electricity mixes were in the range of 10%. Conclusions It was found that those parameters that are subject to a major change during the reference service period of the building should be treated dynamically in order to obtain reliable results. Future research is foreseen to provide additional knowledge concerning the influence of dynamic parameters on both the use phase and the end-of-life phase of buildings, and these findings will also be important when planning future refurbishment measures.