Aid to eco-design of neighbourhoods using life cycle assessment
Environmental awareness of local communities has led to develop sustainable urban<br />projects, but without any precise definition of such concepts. Yet the importance of risks,<br />from local to planetary levels, suggests a more rigorous management of these issues. In this context, life cycle assessment (LCA) constitutes a methodological input to help decision makers reducing environmental impacts of projects using an appropriate design approach This project aims at improving existing tools, and taking advantage of these tools to better cope with users needs. Particularly, plus energy neighbourhood concepts are studied considering their implications in terms of urban morphologies, transport and energy networks. Intermittent electricity production and consumption have to be accounted for because of the temporal variation of production techniques and of the related environmental impacts. Energy contributes to a large extent in several effects like climate change, exhaust of natural resources, impacts on human health and biodiversity. But the project also concerns aspects related to water consumption, land use, materials fabrication, end of life treatment and possible recycling.
Some pioneer sustainable neighbourhood projects have been analysed in order to review the questions raised by decision makers, identify the problems that LCA may contribute to solve, the parameters to be accounted for, and the relevant system boundaries according to the objectives of the LCA study. A model has then been elaborated, including buildings, public spaces (streets, green spaces…) and networks (water mains, district heating…). Temporal variation of electricity production and consumption mixes has been integrated.
Data has been collected regarding environmental impacts related to the most common
materials and processes involved in an urban settlement.
In order to study plus energy projects, the energy demand and production is evaluated
hourly using dynamic simulation. The results are transmitted to the building LCA tool. LCA results at building level are then imported by the neighbourhood level tool. Environmental indicators are calculated, constituting a multi-criteria expression of environmental performance. Indicators are normalized on a single scale (equivalent inhabitants) in order to facilitate interpretation. Several alternatives can then be compared, constituting a help in decision making.
Bundled software has been developed and some tools are already distributed by a software
editor. These tools have been applied experimentally in some case studies, for instance to
evaluate concepts corresponding to best practice (quartier Vauban in Freiburg, Germany). A project regarding Cité Descartes (East of Paris) has then been studied.
In this example, appropriate choices of urban morphology and technologies allow the
environmental performance to reach a best practice level. These first case studies show the
feasibility of applying LCA as an aid to eco-design of neighbourhoods.
ACV Quartiers (Neighbourhood LCA) is an industrial research project coordinated by
ARMINES. The other partners are VINCI Construction France, IZUBA Energies and ACT Consultants. The project began in January 2009 and lasted 36 months. The ANR grant has been 377,757 € for a total budget of around 687,000 €.
Four communications in international conferences and an article in a peer reviewed journal have been written on the basis of the developments performed in this project. The
neighbourhood model has been presented during the Sustainable Building Conference April 2010 in Madrid. The communication at the CISBAT Conference in Lausanne September 2011 concerned a case study. Two communications have been sent to the Conference « Lif e Cycle Assessment and Construction » in Nantes, planned next July 2012. An article has been sent to the Building and environment journal.
The trend towards green developments misses a clear definition of such concepts, though sustainability requires a more precise management of such important issues like climate change, exhaust of resources, pollution and waste. Life cycle assessment (LCA) constitutes a useful tool in order to help decision makers reducing environmental impacts by appropriate design. For instance the proposed concept of net energy producing building may lead to reduce the density of a city, thus increasing the need of transport. LCA could be applied in order to study a global balance and search for an adapted synthesis or optimization. Evaluating a set of indicators, LCA provides a more global assessment than a single criteria method like the ecological footprint or CO2 emissions. Its sensitivity to many parameters allows a decision aid to be provided to many actors like : municipalities and associated technical services, property developers, architects, contractors and users. This method is applied in many countries to study buildings, e.g. 8 tools have been compared in the European thematic network PRESCO. LCA has been applied in Germany to city districts, but for global studies and not as a design aid. The present project proposes therefore to develop an eco-design tool for urban settlements. The work programme includes the following phases. 1 Elaboration of specifications Experiences of green settlements will be analysed in order to review questions which could be answered using LCA, design parameters to be included, and relevant system boundaries according to the objective of the study. 2 Data collection Life cycle inventory data bases (concerning materials and processes) will be updated and complemented with e.g. the hourly variation of the electricity mix in France, emissions of recent wood fuel boilers, impacts related to the fabrication and end of life of PV systems etc. 3 Methodology and modelling A set of environmental indicators can be evaluated, but some aspects like the variation of the electricity mix are not accounted for. This leads to develop a dynamic LCA tool, which is innovative compared to the present methods where all parameters are fixed. This approach can also concern e.g. the variation of a boiler efficiency and thermal properties of insulation. 4 Software development The models developed in earlier phases will be implemented in a package including Pleiades-Comfie (thermal simulation), Equer (LCA of buildings) and Ariadne (LCA of urban settlements). The format of data from Geographic Information Systems will be examined in order to study the feasibility of linking such tools with LCA. 5 Application in case studies The tool will be applied to study : - an urban renovation project in Aubervilliers, North of Paris. The city is studying an environmental plan. Several scenarios will be compared using LCA, and the results will be used to help the municipality improving architectural and urban recommendations within this plan. - a green development project in the South of Paris A high environmental performance is targeted, and it would be interesting to express this performance using LCA indicators. These activities will be performed in link with European networks, e.g. the ENSLIC Building project regarding applications of LCA in the building sector.
Bruno PEUPORTIER (Université)
The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.
Help of the ANR 377,758 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 36 Months