1.4 EeBGuide within the European context

The primary objective of the EeBGuide is to provide consistent calculation rules and operational guidance for LCA studies conducted within the context of research projects within the Energy-Efficient Buildings European Initiative (E2B EI, or Energy-Efficient Buildings Public Private Partnership, EeB PPP). Such research projects use LCA for supporting decisions during the development of technologies, and/or as an assessment method for quantifying the environmental benefits of innovative technologies (see 1.3.3). LCA studies – whether they cover comparative assertions or investigate individual products or buildings – are intended to be comparable in the wider context of the E2B Initiative. This means that they should be based on similar methods, assumptions and mechanisms, and yield credible, comparable results.

To give the full picture of the EeBGuide, it is useful to understand how it is embedded in the European context, and to discuss what its role could be within this context. Figure 3 illustrates the current, potentially confusing situation relating to EPDs, building LCA, building labelling and legislative activities in the European context.

 Figure 3: Current European situation in the context of EPD and building LCAs

LCA is currently used as the basis for product assessments, and especially in providing EPDs, which form an important data source for building assessments used in building labelling schemes. This basis is not consistently defined by the various standards and the ILCD Handbook; definitions may conflict, and different approaches to conducting a study may be chosen. The forthcoming Construction Products Regulation (CPR) [CPR 2011] contains additional Basic (Work) Requirements (BWR), particularly the addition of ‘environment’ to BWR 3 (hygiene and health) and the new BWR 7 (Sustainable use of natural resources), stating that “EPD should be used when available for the assessment of the sustainable use of resources and of the impact of construction works on the environment.”

Both the European standards EN 15804 and EN 15978 and the ILCD Handbook are based on the international standards ISO 14040 and ISO 14044. The European standards define the general framework and general calculation methods for building and product LCAs. The European ECO EPD platform (as the potential umbrella body for national EPD programmes) and national EPD programmes have individual sets of rules, and may refer to EN 15804. Building labelling schemes (such as DGNB, HQE, VERDE or BREEAM) use their own individual sets of calculation rules for building LCA, and may refer to EN 15978. As a consequence, the European landscape of LCA calculation rules is currently not harmonized, and the links between EPD data and building LCAs (which use EPD data for the products used) are not necessarily well established. However, the ongoing efforts of projects such as SBA Common Metrics are contributing to the development of common rules.

In the field of legislation, the revision of the Building Products Directive (CPD) to the Building products Regulation (CPR) has created a demand for building product EPDs as a mechanism to meet the additional requirements (see above). Consequently, building product manufacturers are faced with the need for EPDs for their products, and the subsequent provision of such EPDs will lead to a stock of product-specific environmental information not seen to date. The utilization of such information may well lead to a wide use of LCA for assessing the environmental performance of buildings. One core requirement for such an application is consistency between data supply (product data/EPD) and data use (building LCA). In this context, consistency will be enhanced by this guidance document, which represents an excellent step towards consistent LCA calculation models within the European construction industry.

Figure 4 illustrates the link that the EeBGuide is able to establish between the various standards, building labelling schemes, EPD programmes, legislation and other items within the European context.

Figure 4: EeBGuide within the European context

Altogether, several dimensions of impact and scope can be associated with the EeBGuide. These impacts are explained in more detail in the following paragraphs.

Impact on LCA practitioners and technology development within E2B EI research projects

The EeBGuide enables LCA practitioners, from both private and public organizations, to quantify environmental impacts in a consistent way. The guidance can be applied in assessing the life cycle of whole buildings (existing and new) and of existing building products and technological solutions (existing or under development) within the E2B Initiative. It allows practitioners to perform LCA studies in a clear, predefined and well-structured way by delivering scientifically sound, practically applicable, and quality-assured guidance. In addition, high-quality life cycle inventory (LCI) data on buildings and building products can be obtained by following the EeBGuide, applying time- and cost-saving mechanisms for conducting future LCA studies and providing reporting templates.

By using the guidance document in future studies (beyond the FP7 arena), the EeBGuide will help LCA practitioners to produce more robust, harmonized, and quality-assured LCA results. The ability to quantify the environmental performance of newly developed products consistently, and to compare this performance with that of existing products, may lead both to the reduction of their environmental impacts and to significant promotion of these new products, and thus contribute considerably to technology development in the EU.

Impact on building labelling schemes and national EPD programmes

Labelling schemes for sustainable buildings have received tremendous attention over recent years, and are seen as a major driver for innovation and implementation of sustainable thinking in the European construction sector. This document, and the additional reporting templates for buildings, may quite likely form a basis for integrating LCA into labelling schemes. In this context, building LCA depends strongly on calculation methods that are suitably applicable to such studies, and on reliable data for individual construction products. Such data may be provided by the EPDs of manufacturer-specific products, or by generic LCA data for average construction products. For the purpose of setting up generic databases, and to enable a growing number of LCA experts to contribute to that task, common rules and specifications as well as guidance will be required, and these are provided by the EeBGuide.

For the further consideration of aspects related to building labelling, relevant stakeholders have been invited to participate in the public consultation on the EeBGuide. Special attention has therefore been paid to the expected impacts of the EeBGuide on labelling schemes, and to the potential resulting benefits and opportunities for stakeholders.

This EeBGuide may also have an impact on the various EPD programmes throughout Europe. Although EPD programmes generally provide the required provisions for conducting the LCA study for an EPD, these provisions may differ between different EPD programmes, and operational guidance on how to conduct the product LCA study may be missing. The EeBGuide will be useful in the formulation of Product Category Rules (PCR) as the basis for EPD for ‘new’ product categories, or for EPD programmes that are being newly established. In particular, for innovative solutions that are currently under development, or which will be developed within the Energy-Efficient Buildings Initiative, guidance on how to conduct an adequate study may help the formulation of appropriate PCRs. Here, the EeBGuide may yield useful guidance.

Impact on standards, legislation and political background

In the past, practice in building-related LCA studies has been quite diverse. On the one hand, the building and construction sector appeared to be the most advanced sector in terms of ongoing standardization activities concerning LCA studies. On the other hand, many LCA studies are still conducted without proper (or even any) reference to current standards, because of a lack of either resources or knowledge concerning the existing standards and ongoing standardization activities.

Current and recent activities cover both the definition of LCA calculation rules in detail for building labelling by individual labelling schemes (for example, the German DGNB scheme includes building LCA on the basis of very specific rules) and framework standardization activities such as those developed within CEN TC 350. A general consensus is needed for the future development of LCA methodology, but the resulting standards do not advise the practitioner in sufficient detail on how to conduct a study.

In this context, the EeBGuide fills a current gap, and thereby has the potential to reach beyond the impact originally anticipated within the E2B Initiative. With regard to current and future standardization activities, the EeBGuide may serve as a guideline for the development of directly applicable and highly operational standards for the application of LCA within the building and construction sector, and possibly even within other sectors. This would result in generally improved quality and scientific soundness of LCA studies within the E2B Initiative and beyond. In this way, the EeBGuide will enables legislative bodies to place greater reliance on LCA as a policy instrument. It will increase the usefulness of LCA studies, and foster their use in decision support and policymaking, ensuring that decisions and policies are formed on the basis of integrated environmental assessments.

At the European policy level, the EeBGuide will provide a direct link from the construction industry to the European Platform on LCA and the ILCD data network. In addition, this guide will have an indirect impact on the following European policies:

  • The Integrated Product Policy (IPP) Communication (2003), which aims to provide general support, through a series of broad activities and measures, for reducing the environmental impacts of goods and services (products) throughout their life cycle. According to the IPP, LCA is the best framework for assessing the potential environmental impacts of products. Following the IPP, the European Commission has developed the ILCD Handbook, among other activities. This EeBGuide uses the ILCD Handbook to give more pragmatic and specific guidance to LCA practitioners within the construction sector.
  • The Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste, and the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources, both from 2005, which tackle the topic from the waste and resource sides respectively. A key development of the Resource Thematic Strategy is the development of decoupling indicators for Europe. Key deliverables of the Waste Thematic Strategy are the development of waste guidelines. LCA in general and the EeBGuide in particular have the potential to address related issues, with the use of appropriate environmental indicators and the assessment of impact categories.
  • The new Construction Products Regulation (CPR) has amended the third basic work requirement with the reference to environment and added the seventh basic work requirement, sustainable use of natural resources. The amended and the new basic work requirements will need quantitative assessment on the amount and type of resource consumption related to one product, and the European Parliament suggested the use of EPD for this purpose. As the CPR will have to be broadly implemented in the harmonized European product standards, standardization for such LCA studies in conjunction with intensive guidance is required, and the EeBGuide will contribute to the provision of such guidance, in support of EPD programmes and of both published and forthcoming CEN standards.
  • The Lead Market Initiative for Europe on Sustainable Construction, in which LCA is directly mentioned as a means to describe sustainable construction and an integrated life-cycle-oriented approach to construction, which is seen as an approach to the successful promotion of sustainable construction.
  • The most important and recent instruments are the Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan (SCP) and the Sustainable Industrial Policy (SIP). SCP and SIP will build on, and further develop, among others, the Integrated Product Policy (IPP), the Resource and Waste Thematic Strategies, Green Public Procurement (GPP), the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP), and the Eco-label and Eco-Management and Audit System (EMAS) Regulations. It will also further develop the Energy-using Products Directive (EuP). The JRC-IES, with its European Platform on LCA project (ILCD data network), is mandated to support the implementation of the SCP with data and methods.

Social impact

The social impacts derived from the development of this EeBGuide can be diverse in nature. Among the most relevant ones are the creation of new, high-technology jobs by improving Europe’s competitiveness, healthy and secure working conditions, and the general well-being offered by a healthy environment. These are the impacts that can be directly linked with technologies, and their contribution to our future lives. The integration of participatory approaches into the development of this guidance document strengthens these aspects of the social impact, contributing to a more democratic and more knowledge-based society.

Impact on European competitiveness

The EeBGuide will enhance the competitiveness of European industry by its contribution to sustainable development. It supports the goal of decoupling growth from resource depletion, which is an economic, environmental, and social necessity for European industry. Assessing and improving the environmental performance of products, technologies and services, EeBGuide delivers the framework for a consistent environmental evaluation.

1 Introduction

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