Life cycle cost analysis of the UK housing stock
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- Cuéllar-Franca, R.M. & Azapagic, A. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2014) 19: 174. doi:10.1007/s11367-013-0610-4
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The aim of the paper is to estimate life cycle costs (LCC) of the current housing stock in the UK as part of sustainability assessment of the residential construction sector. This is carried out by first estimating the life cycle costs of individual houses considering detached, semi-detached and terraced homes. These results are then extrapolated to the UK housing stock consisting of seven million each of semi-detached and terraced houses and four million of detached houses. A brief discussion of life cycle environmental impacts is also included to help identify improvement opportunities for both costs and impacts.
The life cycle costing methodology followed in the study is congruent with the life cycle assessment methodology. The system boundary for the study is from ‘cradle to grave’, including all activities from extraction and manufacture of construction materials to construction and use of the house to its demolition. The functional unit is defined as the construction and occupation of a house in the UK over the lifetime of 50 years.
Results and discussion
The total life cycle costs are estimated at £247,000 for the detached house, £192,000 for the semi-detached and £142,000 for the terraced house. The running costs in the use stage contribute 52 % to the total life cycle costs of which half is from energy use. The construction costs contribute 35 % to the total LCC with the walls and the roof being the most expensive items. The remaining 13 % of the costs are incurred at the end of life of the house which are largely (85 %) due to the cost of labour for demolition. Recovery of end-of-life materials has a limited potential to reduce the overall life cycle costs of a house. The life cycle costs of the whole housing stock are estimated at £67 billion per year or £3,360 billion over the 50-year lifetime.
The existing housing stock in the UK is facing a number of challenges that will need to be addressed in the near future. These include improving energy efficiency and reducing the dependency on fossil fuels to reduce energy demand, fuel poverty and environmental impacts. Furthermore, the disparity between the construction costs and house market prices will need to be addressed to ensure that access to housing and house ownership do not become the privilege of a few.