The Imperative of Life Cycle Assessment in Building Sector: A Deep Dive into GHG Emissions and the Role of Green Building Certifications

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Climate Change and Building Sector’s Responsibility

The reality of climate change is undeniable, and its impacts are far-reaching. Human-induced emissions are major contributors to this global phenomenon, demanding urgent steps towards mitigation. Buildings play a pivotal role in this story, accounting for a significant 40% of worldwide energy use, surpassing even transportation. This extensive energy consumption encompasses various stages of a building’s life, from material production and transport to its ultimate demolition.

Decoding Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Buildings

While the vast energy usage of buildings is a well-established fact, understanding the distribution of this consumption over a building’s life is crucial. A comprehensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) carried out in 2012 revealed enlightening details. Specifically, for commercial buildings, the operational phase dwarfs all other phases in terms of environmental impact. More than 80% of greenhouse gas emissions manifest during this stage when the building is in active use. This includes energy consumed for heating, ventilation, cooling, lighting, and various other applications. The construction, transport, maintenance, and eventual disposal or recycling account for the remaining 10-20% of energy use.

The Future of Building Emissions and The Need for Action

Emerging economies are witnessing an explosion in construction activities. Combine this with the inefficiencies of the global existing building stock, and we’re on a trajectory for increasing greenhouse gas emissions from the building sector. This issue cannot be sidelined. Proactive steps are vital to reduce these impacts. The silver lining? The building sector possesses the highest potential for impactful greenhouse gas emission reductions. It’s a universal solution, applicable to both developed and developing nations. With current technologies, energy consumption in buildings can plummet by 30 to 80%, even offering potential profits over the building’s lifespan.

Green Building Certifications: The New Gold Standard

Enter green building certifications, heralding a revolution in sustainable construction and design. Such certifications mandate the incorporation of Life Cycle Assessment, ensuring every stage of a building’s life is optimized for sustainability. Let’s take a moment to delve into the most prominent certification standards:

  • LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design): Recognized globally, LEED emphasizes energy savings, water efficiency, and CO2 emissions reduction. A building’s life cycle is integral to its scoring system.
  • IGBC (Indian Green Building Council): Tailored for the Indian subcontinent, IGBC focuses on Indian architectural practices. Just like LEED, its rating system incorporates LCA evaluations.
  • GRIHA (Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment): An indigenous Indian rating system, GRIHA assesses a building’s performance over its entire life cycle, from cradle to grave.

Table: Building Certification Standards and LCA Requirements

Certification Standard LCA Requirement
LEED Integral to its scoring system, emphasizing on every stage of building’s life.
IGBC Central to its rating, accounting for the entire life span of a building.
GRIHA Comprehensive assessment from inception to demolition.

5. Conclusion

As the building sector continues to grapple with its substantial carbon footprint, the emphasis on Life Cycle Assessment and green building certifications will only grow. These tools, combined with a global commitment to sustainability, can pave the way for a more responsible and greener future. Stakeholders across the board, from architects to policymakers, must take cognizance and act decisively.

Categories: LCA