With around 35 percent, buildings are one of the most significant sources of annual greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. In order to sustainably minimize the overall emission of greenhouse gases in future, including the share attributable to the building industry, it is necessary not only to register the energy efficiency of buildings and the building products used, but to take the entire life cycle into account. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in particular provides a method of systematically and transparently depicting the ecological impact of buildings and building products throughout their service lives. However, the calculation regulations and procedures for conducting Life Cycle Assessments leave a certain amount of room for interpretation.
To reduce this to a minimum, the EU research project »EeBGuide« (Operational guidance for Life Cycle Assessment studies of the Energy Efficient Buildings Initiative) was called into being; the Fraunhofer institute for Building Physics IBP has assumed coordination of this project. As its defined aim, uniform binding regulations are to be applied throughout Europe to secure a common basis for working with Life Cycle Assessments. Research partners are the British and French institutes Building Research Establishment (BRE) and Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment (CSTB), the Spanish UNESCO Chair of Life Cycle Studies of the Escola Superior de Comerc International (ESCI), the German company thinkstep AG and the Prof Ch Sjöström Consultancy from Sweden. Important aspects in the preparation of Life Cycle Assessment guidelines are a transparent, clearly defined approach, and the involvement of LCA experts from all over Europe. Over the course of several workshops, a panel of experts made up of scientists and representatives of industry developed new approaches on the basis of standards and manuals widely used in Europe and throughout the world, and discussed controversial topics and critical points. The first draft was already subjected to an external review and a Europe-wide survey; the remarks and comments collected in this process were then incorporated into the final version of the Life Cycle Assessment guideline. An 800-page reference book was finally produced that passed through several external quality checks and was made available for public comment. Its applicability was also put to the test: Using a large number of projects as examples, various scenarios were acted out and the employed tools tested. Rapidly generating uncomplicated solutions to everyday problems is the key to efficient work. This web-based application makes the preparation of Life Cycle Assessments more coherent, while minimizing sources of error: The predefined documentation templates and clear definition of the various detail levels »Screening,« »Simplified,« and »Complete« provide optimum support.
Above all, however, the contributions by LCA, certification, and EPD experts from all over Europe was an enrichment for the project. For the various planning phases, even with differing levels of knowledge concerning the building or the construction product, EeBGuide determines life cycle phases and materials that are mandatory for inclusion in Life Cycle Assessments. These can thus already be prepared during the drafting of a project, for example – despite a partial lack of information or with only vague information on the geometry and the materials to be used. In conclusion, it can be stated that with EeBGuide the foundation has been laid for uniform Life Cycle Assessments in the building industry. In future, Life Cycle Assessments will be carried out and documented on this basis in research projects within the Energy Efficient Building European Initiative. The introduction of Life Cycle Assessments for buildings and building products on a consistent basis throughout Europe will enhance quality and facilitate the use of uniform assessment data. The guideline constitutes a sound, uniform basis for simplified and complex Life Cycle Assessments of buildings and building products. It is thus possible to utilize ecological aspects for decision making in both early and advanced phases of planning.