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Assessing the End-of-Life Impacts of Buildings

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journal contribution
posted on 01.07.2008, 00:00 by Pedro Santos Vieira, Arpad Horvath
This paper builds on previous research on end of life of products by synthesizing some of the theories proposed in the literature and presenting a method for environmental decision-making related to buildings. This is achieved through different solutions, but most significantly through the use of hybrid life-cycle assessment and the definition of allocation boundaries in a way that decreases the uncertainty associated with technological forecasting. Results show that there is no significant difference between the results of two major end-of-life assessment approaches (attributional and consequential), and that the choice between the use of one or the other for buildings may not be a critical decision. Assessing the impacts of recycling polices requires accounting for product substitutions, market analysis, and the full supply chain impacts of the recycling chains. Increasing the recycling of concrete from deconstructed buildings from the current 27% rate to 50% could yield a 2−3% (2.7−5.6 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents) reduction in buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of removing 408,000−847,000 typical cars from U.S. roads.