Environmental Life Cycle Assessment

Environmental Life Cycle Assessment
Category: 
Green Building

TOTAL Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the brick industry to quantify the environmental impact of clay bricks.

The results show that the external walling materials of a house, including clay brick, have very little impact on the overall greenhouse gas emissions caused by a house and provide important learnings about LCA methodologies that may one day be used to regulate the industry.

In 2008 Think Brick Australia commissioned Energetics to undertake a full Life Cycle Assessment of the Australian clay brick industry. This involved collecting data directly from the industry on clay extraction, manufacturing processes, transport requirements, construction elements, and end-of-life disposal.

The study - the first of its kind for depth and breadth - also included the modeling of operational energy consumed by the houses constructed. This allowed for a comparison of total emissions created by a house over its lifetime (rather than just the emissions created during the manufacture of the materials).
The key findings were:

Improving the design and operation of a house is currently the best way to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions
The walling material(s) make very little impact on the overall greenhouse gas emissions caused by house

Comparing building material requires measuring the four stages of a building total life cycle:

1. Extraction & manufacture
2. Transport & construction
3. Operation of a lived-in house (over at least 50 years)
4. Demolition & disposal

The embodied emissions of a typical Australian house represent only 11 per cent of the total emissions over a 50-year life cycle, regardless of walling materials.
In particular, this study highlighted that analysis of emissions based only on the manufacture of building materials and/or the construction of a house does not capture the breadth of information to properly develop public policy.

The best way to capture this information is to use the total life cycle analysis methodology employed by the Energetics study. View the results and conclusions or alternatively read the full report. Visit the Think Brick Australia blog to comment and read more information on the methodology used and the policy implications of the findings.