Environmental and economic optimisation of the floor on grade in residential buildings

  • Karen AllackerEmail author



The goal of the study was to determine the preferred composition of the floor on grade in residential buildings in the Belgian context from a life cycle environmental and financial perspective. In addition to the life cycle costs, the required investments were evaluated to take into account budget restrictions. The analysis of current available materials and techniques allows both the designer and building owner to extend their decision criteria from mainly investment cost to life cycle aspects as well.


In this study, the potential environmental impact was assessed by considering the environmental external cost of the floors. Several existing methods were combined to enable a full assessment, taking the ExternE methodology (willingness to pay) as the main base. The ecoinvent database was used to gather the inventory data but was adapted to increase the representativeness for Belgium. The financial evaluation included both the investment and life cycle aspects. The latter was analysed through the sum of the present values of all costs occurring during the life span of the floor.

Results and discussion

The necessary assumptions (e.g. transport, end-of-life treatment, cleaning, life span, economic parameters) and the adaptations to the ecoinvent data are transparently reported. The methodological steps (e.g. monetary valuation, transmission losses, equivalent degree days, Pareto optimisation) are elaborated in detail. This allows the results, which are graphically presented, to be correctly interpreted. The contribution of the life cycle stages and the optimisation potential of the considered impacts are discussed.


The environmental external cost based on the willingness to pay to reduce environmental impacts proved to be relatively low, representing about 9 % of the financial cost. The cost reduction of current common practice was estimated to be about 20 and 60 % from a financial and environmental perspective, respectively. The insulation level and the floor covering were identified as the most important optimisation parameters.


Internalisation of environmental external costs might be an important step to achieve more sustainable solutions. However, it is recommended to consider financial and environmental external costs separately too because both contain important information for the decision maker. Because it is hard (if not impossible) to increase the insulation level of the floor on grade later on in the life cycle of the building, a high insulation value should be a priority during construction. The floor covering can more easily be adapted and is thus considered a secondary priority.


Budget restrictions Floor on grade Life cycle assessment Life cycle costing Monetary valuation Pareto optima 



The analysis described in this paper was part of a Ph.D. research within the project ‘Sustainability, Financial and Quality evaluation of Dwelling types (SuFiQuaD)’ (2007–2011). Special thanks go to the Belgian Science Policy—Science for a Sustainable Development for financing the project. The collaboration of the colleagues of VITO and BBRI within the SuFiQuaD project is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Architecture, Urbanism and PlanningKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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