The ambitious European Green Deal was presented at the end of 2019, and it is slowly being rolled out throughout the EU ever since. The Green Deal outlines a vision of the EU becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, with a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030.
With this target on the horizon, several EU legislative tools are starting to highlight the importance of Life Cycle Assessments (LCA). These include the EU Sustainable Finance Taxonomy (known as the EU Taxonomy) and the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) proposal.
The use of LCAs is also playing an important part in the upcoming national regulations within EU Member States, with LCAs for buildings becoming mandatory as well as Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for building products. Several Member States are looking to set limit values on the Global Warming Potential (GWP) in CO2-eq per m2. But what do we need to know about LCAs when using them as an instrument for policy making or as a way to measure the environmental impact of buildings?
Rule of thumb: 10 percent uncertainty in LCA results
LCA is a cradle-to-grave or cradle-to-cradle analysis technique to assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life. Figure 1 shows the stages involved in the LCA for thermal insulation; raw material supply, manufacturing the product, (transport to site) and installation, use phase (in buildings), end-of-life stage (including demolition), waste processing, transport of waste and disposal, and lastly the benefits from reuse, recovery and recycling, which are often considered as being beyond the product life cycle.