G-03 Future technical developments and innovation

Aspect G-03 Future technical developments and innovation
This aspect includes the possibility of considering the effects of future developments with regard to technologies, materials and end-of-life options (e.g. scenarios on energy recovery, or recycling) within a building LCA. In the current business world, technologies and production techniques are changing rapidly. In contrast, building and product LCAs are based on today’s available technology (the precautionary principle). Some major technical systems may change significantly within the coming decades. Hence a modelled option may be preferable, based on today’s general conditions, but may not be the preferable option under future conditions.How can technical developments and innovation be dealt in product or building LCA studies?

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 EPDs for building products, and building-level LCA assessments, are based on the attributional LCA approach, and the European standards developed for the industry are clear that they should be considered on the basis of current practice. EN 15978 mentions that technologies should be rated by economical and technical feasibility. EN 15804 emphasizes that the scenarios should be practical, and be based on today’s technology. This reflects the baseline scenario.Where relevant, alongside EPD and building-level LCA studies, the effect of changes of production techniques, materials etc. may be shown by a separate scenario within a sensitivity analysis. All assumptions have to be documented, and should be based on reliable sources. For comparative assertions the consideration of future developments should be avoided or, where they are considered, they must be treated in the same way for both product systems.Future developments may be described within separate scenarios, where:

  • the assumptions made are justified;
  • the assumptions are documented transparently;
  • a sensitivity analysis has been conducted and reported by comparison with the baseline scenario;
  • the external review comments on this assessment of future developments are included.

The above restrictions are valid for EPD, and in ILCD the comparative goal justifies certain limitations. In some circumstances, however, the goal of the LCA for a product or building may be to understand the effect of a future development and its implications – for example, what is the implication of a changing energy mix for a highly insulated building or an energy-using product? In these circumstances it can be appropriate to consider the effects of future technology. If this type of LCA is undertaken, it must be very clearly stated that the study differs from a more usual EPD or building LCA.

Rules from:

EN 15978

8.7.4 Scenarios for waste processing for reuse, recycling and energy recovery – Module C3

EN 15804

6.3.8 Developing product level scenarios


Provisions: Future processes and elementary flows
In every study, a baseline scenario reflecting current technology should be assessed. According to EN 15804 and EN 15978, it is important that scenarios for the use and EoL stages be based on today’s technologies. Scenario-based quantifications can be provided as accompanying information, and may be included in the assessment.To assess the impacts of future technological developments, separate scenario modelling may be carried out, if significant impacts on today’s decisions may be expected as a result of future technology shifts.Such developments could be, for example:

  • a shift in the energy mix over a building’s life cycle;
  • a shift in the energy efficiency of the building envelope;
  • new technologies to recycle construction waste.

Third-party forecast studies or – if this is within the focus of the research – the practitioner’s own forecast studies should be used as the basis for deriving assumptions for future technology shifts.

Any assumptions made, and the resulting modelling consequences, should undergo a third-party review.

Back to 5.2.  Goal and Scope

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