G-13 (Buildings) / G-12 (Products) Infrastructure machinery and capital equipment for material production, energy, water, waste and transport for screening and simplified LCA

Aspect G-13 (Buildings) / G-12 (Products) Infrastructure machinery and capital equipment for material production, energy, water, waste and transport for screening and simplified LCA
Description
Different LCA databases and datasets with different boundaries are available. These databases apply different rules for including or excluding infrastructure in LCA datasets (e.g. owing to database policy or cut-off-rules). Infrastructure, especially related to processes that have a high impact for other datasets (e.g. the production of electricity), can have an environmental impact that should not necessarily be neglected using cut-off rules. The infrastructure covered here comprises not only the capital equipment and machinery (the factories, equipment and machines) that are used to extract and process materials and manufacture products, but also the infrastructure for energy, water, waste and transport processes. Current practices show that the datasets from the various databases do not have the same system boundaries; sometimes infrastructure is included, and sometimes it is excluded.When and how should infrastructure, etc. related to material production capital goods, energy production, waste and transportation be excluded or included?

related study objective

stand-alone LCA comparative assertion

related study phase

goal and scope definition inventory analysis (LCI) impact assessment (LCIA) interpretation reporting

relevant for

new buildings existing buildings construction products screening LCA simplified LCA complete LCA
Provisions The inclusion or exclusion of infrastructure is especially relevant for background data. In general, infrastructure, machinery and capital equipment should not be excluded systematically, but cut-off criteria should be considered depending on the impact categories.In common LCA practice, the LCA practitioner does not have an influence on the database modelling, or on the decision whether or not to include infrastructure in datasets. As a result, this depends directly on which background data to use. Hence, no provision is given on the subject of the general inclusion or exclusion of infrastructure etc. as, owing to restricted data availability, practitioners typically are not free to decide this matter in terms of databases or consistent datasets. For the inclusion or exclusion of infrastructure in the foreground system, the following provisions should be applied:For screening and simplified LCA, capital equipment and machinery may be omitted, owing to the application of provisions from EN 15804 and the corresponding cut-off rules. Examples for cases where these points are important are mentioned in the guidance section below.
Rules from:

EN 15978

 

7.4.3 Boundaries of the construction process stage (Modules A4 – A5)7.4.3.1 General

7.4.3.2 Boundary of the transport to and from site (Module A4)

ILCD

6.6.2 Qualitative definition of system boundaries
Systematic exclusion of activity types. ILCD states that “a systematic exclusion of e.g. transport, infrastructures, services, administration activities, etc. is not appropriate unless necessary according to the specific goal of the LCI/LCA study (e.g. if the quantitative relevance of such activity types is to be analysed, the system would be modeled twice, once with and once without them).”
Guidance
The infrastructure, machinery and capital goods covered here are the capital equipment and machinery (the factories, equipment and machines) that are used to extract and process materials and manufacture products, and also the infrastructure for energy, water, waste and transport processes.According to the ILCD Handbook, a systematic exclusion of e.g. transport, infrastructure, services, administration activities, etc. is not appropriate unless necessary according to the specific goal of the LCI/LCA study. In principle, all quantitatively relevant activities that can be attributed to a system should be included in the system boundaries unless they are quantitatively irrelevant, applying the cut-off criteria.If the practitioner is in the position to (or needs to) collect foreground data on the production of materials or the treatment of waste, then the principle of focusing on the collection of important data (in terms of LCA results) should prevail. To this end, the predefined cut-off rules should be applied.In common LCA practice, however, background datasets are typically accepted as they are. To improve the consistency of a study, it is strongly advised that data from methodologically consistent databases be used. This then means that the consideration of infrastructure is generally consistent within the database. However, the practitioner should check, depending on the goal and scope of the study, whether  the treatment of infrastructure processes in the background data is relevant.Guidance related to cut-off rules should be used for infrastructure as part of the foreground model (i.e. the infrastructure that is directly included by the practitioner). The relevance of processes and inputs depends on the impact categories assessed. As a consequence, the inclusion or exclusion of infrastructure, etc. has to be evaluated with care.From an energy or global warming point of view, it may be possible to leave out the infrastructure related to the production of materials, as previous studies have shown that it represents less than 5% of the impact [Frischknecht 2007]. In other cases, capital equipment and machinery are important, e.g. wind power or water power.The normal assumption is that capital equipment and machinery for a manufacturing process are not significant, and are not considered in LCA. They may potentially be relevant if production output is very small, or the capital equipment has a very short lifespan, or the product has an extremely low impact. This could be reviewed initially by considering the importance of the annualized capital costs relative to the production costs, bearing in mind that environmental impacts are not discounted over time in the way financial costs are. If considered potentially important, the likely service life (length of useful service) for buildings, equipment and machinery would need to be reviewed so that the amount of materials used per annum of production could be considered, and compared with the cut-off criterion of 1% of total mass of inputs for the same period.For renewable energy generation as an energy process, e.g. energy from wind turbines or photovoltaic (PV) cells, the main impact is purely capital equipment, i.e. the manufacture of the turbine and infrastructure or the PV cells. In these instances, the energy processes should include capital equipment.In general it would be good practice to provide information in the background report on the inclusion or exclusion of infrastructure within any secondary datasets used, and its significance if included.

This aspect may need to be revised in a future version of the EeBGuide if additional impact categories such as land use or human toxicity and ecotoxicity are assessed (as mandatory indicators).


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