Developing a framework for integrating life cycle environmental and economic assessment of buildings

Submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

2 Apr 2018

There is growing concern about the effect that buildings are having on the environment. Mitigation strategies tend to focus on one life cycle stage, usually the operational stage, leaving the other life cycle stages, such as manufacturing and construction, largely ignored. The slow uptake of whole life cycle design is further hindered by the uncertainties associated with the economic implications of life cycle environmental optimisation. Evaluating building design options with a focus on simultaneously optimising life cycle environmental and economic performance is difficult due to a lack of comprehensive and accessible tools. Integrating life cycle perspective tools such as life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle costing (LCC) can help address this uncertainty and demonstrate the trade-offs between economic and environmental considerations, ultimately aiding the decision-making process.

This study describes the development of a comprehensive environmental and economic framework for integrated building evaluation and demonstrates its potential by applying it to built environment examples. This demonstration highlights the fact that solutions for improving the environmental performance of buildings are not always the most expensive, as previously thought, especially when assessing the building’s performance from a life cycle perspective. It also shows that building design strategies that aim to decrease environmental impact can also have a beneficial effect on the economic performance of buildings. This study further demonstrates the large uncertainty associated with life cycle studies and highlights the various sensitivity parameters, such as period of analysis and discount rate, which must be taken into account when considering the life cycle results. The framework will allow building designers to investigate different design options and base their final selection on options that maximise environmental performance, while providing an understanding of the economic implications of this optimisation. This should lead to the adoption of building strategies that consider the whole building life cycle and improve the environmental performance of the built environment.

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