The Building and construction sector as a whole represents approximately 10% of GDP and is the largest industrial employer (30% of industrial employment) in the EU,. The potential for environmental improvement is huge, as construction is responsible for consuming more than 50% of European natural resources and the main construction product, the building, is responsible of more than 30% of the European carbon footprint and more than 40% of the primary energy consumption in Europe. (JRC SUSPROC SRD for the construction sector).
The building and construction sector has been chosen as a focus sector for all 4 LCiP partners due to its high strategic importance.
The life cycle of buildings is composed of 5 main phases, with environmental issues associated with each:
- Material production
- End of Life
This phase includes the steps from raw material extraction to the exit of the material-building factory. This phase generates environmental impacts all over the world, in particular in terms of natural resource depletion and climate change.
Challenge: how to choose materials with low embodied energy, or based on renewable bio-based materials or from recycling.
The transport of materials from the factory to the construction site also impacts resource depletion and climate change, to a lesser extent.
Challenge: Opt for local supply of materials
Building construction and renovation sites provoke problems relating to air and water pollution, as well as local disturbance including, but not limited to, waste management.
Challenge: minimise the impact of building sites, sorting and valorisation of wastes.
The usage phase includes consumption of water and energy. This phase can have a significant incidence on the depletion of resources such as energy and water and, as a result, on climate change. This phase can represent up to 90% of the global impact of the building.
Challenge: optimise the energetic performance of buildings as of the design phase, and rely on renewable energy sources.
Construction materials emit various substances such as VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), or particles which have potential impacts on the health of occupants.
Challenge: ensure the sanitary quality of materials.
RENOVATION AND REHABILITATION
Renovation and rehabilitation actions allow for the extension of life of buildings, and to maximise the usage of our built environment. Such actions generate lesser environmental impacts than new constructions, and also allow for a reduction in the impacts of the usage phase after renovation.
Challenge: to determine upstream a flexible usage as well as energy performance optimisation and sustainable material selection.
END OF LIFE
End of life includes the deconstruction of the building, waste transport and waste treatment. As with construction sites, demolition sites generate problems associated with contamination and local disturbances. Additionally, the emission of fine particles, harmful to human health, is considerable during the deconstruction phase. The challenge of waste management is significant given the volume of wastes to be evacuated and treated.
Challenge: minimise the impact of worksites, maximise the valorisation of wastes through re-use on site and/or recycling.