|Aspect||G-14 (Buildings) / G-13 (Products) Infrastructure machinery and capital equipment for material production, energy, water, waste and transport for complete LCA.|
||Various LCA databases and datasets with different boundaries are available. These databases apply different rules on the inclusion or exclusion of 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 because of 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 different 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|
|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 systematically excluded, 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 to include infrastructure in datasets or not. As a consequence, this matter depends directly on the decision as to which background data are used. 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 on this matter in terms of databases or consistent datasets. 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 on its significance, if included.For the inclusion or exclusion of infrastructures in the foreground system, the following provisions should be applied.For complete LCA, infrastructure, capital equipment and machinery should be included, unless the application of cut-off rules leads to the omission of these elements.|
||The infrastructure, machinery and capital goods covered here are 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.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, particularly as this subject is not addressed consistently across database borders. To use one consistent database, then, means that the consideration of infrastructure is generally consistent within the study. EPDs from different EPD programmes may be inconsistent in this context, and consistency between generic background databases and EPDs is not generally assured. It can be expected, however, that both EPD programmes and generic databases will yield documentation on this matter.In practical applications, however, the practitioner may find it impossible to conduct a study with truly consistent data. Here, a decision has to be made between consistency in the consideration of infrastructure and the accuracy of available datasets, and for typical LCA use in the construction sector the accuracy of datasets may prevail.Guidance related to cut-off rules should be used for infrastructure as part of the foreground model (i.e. 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 infrastructure related to the production of materials, as previous studies have shown that this typically represents less than 5% of the total 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, if the capital equipment has a very short lifespan, or if the product has an extremely low impact. This could initially be reviewed by considering the importance of the annual capital costs relative to the production costs, bearing in mind that environmental impacts are not discounted over time in the 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 can 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 on its potential significance.
This aspect may have to be revised in the future if additional impact categories such as land use or human toxicity and ecotoxicity are generally available and addressed in this guidance.