Development of a life cycle assessment allocation approach for circular economy in the built environment

Leonora Charlotte Malabi Eberhardt*, Anne van Stijn, Freja Nygaard Rasmussen, Morten Birkved, Harpa Birgisdottir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Transitioning the built environment to a circular economy (CE) is vital to achieve sustainability goals but requires metrics. Life cycle assessment (LCA) can analyse the environmental performance of CE. However, conventional LCA methods assess individual products and single life cycles whereas circular assessment requires a systems perspective as buildings, components and materials potentially have multiple use and life cycles. How should benefits and burdens be allocated between life cycles? This study compares four different LCA allocation approaches: (a) the EN 15804/15978 cut-off approach, (b) the Circular Footprint Formula (CFF), (c) the 50:50 approach, and (d) the linearly degressive (LD) approach. The environmental impacts of four ‘circular building components’ is calculated: (1) a concrete column and (2) a timber column both designed for direct reuse, (3) a recyclable roof felt and (4) a window with a reusable frame. Notable differences in impact distributions between the allocation approaches were found, thus incentivising different CE principles. The LD approach was found to be promising for open and closed-loop systems within a closed loop supply chain (such as the ones assessed here). A CE LD approach was developed to enhance the LD approach’s applicability, to closer align it with the CE concept, and to create an incentive for CE in the industry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9579
Number of pages16
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume12
Issue number22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Allocation
  • Buildings
  • Circular economy (CE)
  • Design for disassembly
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Multi-cycling

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