Web-based system for assessing the environmental performance of construction products: life cycle indicators made accessible to stakeholders

Main Presenter: Fernanda Belizario-Silva 

Co-Authors: Lidiane Oliveira Daniel Reis Katia Punhagui Gabriel Pato Arthur Coser Vanderley John Sergio Pacca

The construction sector is responsible for 38% of the global CO2 emissions. Therefore, determining the CO2 emissions of construction materials, products and systems is necessary for consistent actions targeting low carbon development. Moreover, lifecycle thinking is fundamental to avoid pitfalls and the displacement of emissions along the supply chain without reducing overall emissions. Nevertheless, life cycle inventory data is not always available to stakeholders in the construction sector, especially in developing countries. The release of Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) of construction products is constrained by the lack of information and usually demands hiring Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) consultants, who might be costly for small firms.

To address these issues, we propose a simple lifecycle environmental performance assessment to support everyday activities and decisions for construction stakeholders. The Construction Environmental Performance Information System (known by its Brazilian acronym SIDAC) is a web-based system that allows manufacturers to calculate and disclose the environmental performance indicators of their products. It is an all-in-one, fully digital solution, in which manufacturers can 1) input their gate-to-gate life cycle inventories using an embedded database, 2) calculate their cradle-to-gate environmental performance indicators, 3) submit their data to a third-party review through a digital workflow, 4) publish the environmental performance indicators of their products, so they can be used as inputs for other processes, and 5) generate automatic environmental performance declarations.

The first version of SIDAC has been developed for the Brazilian construction market and allows calculating two life cycle indicators, primary energy demand (MJ) and CO2 emission (kg). It contains a database of 130 generic construction products and basic supplies. Generic products reflect the variability for their environmental performance on a national scale, serving as benchmarks to which manufacturers can compare their specific environmental performance. Following the release of the first version, building material manufacturers will also be able to include their data into SIDAC to calculate their own life cycle indicators. Data can be easily updated so that improvements performed by manufacturers can be readily reflected in their environmental performance information. The system offers a set of background flows that can be used to calculate CO2 emissions and primary energy demand for different products rendering comparable indicators.

We believe that environmental performance assessment must be easy, simple, and accessible to everyone so that it becomes part of everyday activities to support decisions towards more sustainable construction.

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