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Integrating triple bottom line input–output analysis into life cycle sustainability assessment framework: the case for US buildings

  • Nuri Cihat Onat
  • Murat Kucukvar
  • Omer Tatari
LIFE CYCLE SUSTAINABILITY ASSESSMENT

Abstract

Purpose

With the increasing concerns related to integration of social and economic dimensions of the sustainability into life cycle assessment (LCA), traditional LCA approach has been transformed into a new concept, which is called as life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA). This study aims to contribute the existing LCSA framework by integrating several social and economic indicators to demonstrate the usefulness of input–output modeling on quantifying sustainability impacts. Additionally, inclusion of all indirect supply chain-related impacts provides an economy-wide analysis and a macro-level LCSA. Current research also aims to identify and outline economic, social, and environmental impacts, termed as triple bottom line (TBL), of the US residential and commercial buildings encompassing building construction, operation, and disposal phases.

Methods

To achieve this goal, TBL economic input–output based hybrid LCA model is utilized for assessing building sustainability of the US residential and commercial buildings. Residential buildings include single and multi-family structures, while medical buildings, hospitals, special care buildings, office buildings, including financial buildings, multi-merchandise shopping, beverage and food establishments, warehouses, and other commercial structures are classified as commercial buildings according to the US Department of Commerce. In this analysis, 16 macro-level sustainability assessment indicators were chosen and divided into three main categories, namely environmental, social, and economic indicators.

Results and discussion

Analysis results revealed that construction phase, electricity use, and commuting played a crucial role in much of the sustainability impact categories. The electricity use was the most dominant component of the environmental impacts with more than 50 % of greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption through all life cycle stages of the US buildings. In addition, construction phase has the largest share in income category with 60 % of the total income generated through residential building’s life cycle. Residential buildings have higher shares in all of the sustainability impact categories due to their relatively higher economic activity and different supply chain characteristics.

Conclusions

This paper is an important attempt toward integrating the TBL perspective into LCSA framework. Policymakers can benefit from such approach and quantify macro-level environmental, economic, and social impacts of their policy implications simultaneously. Another important outcome of this study is that focusing only environmental impacts may misguide decision-makers and compromise social and economic benefits while trying to reduce environmental impacts. Hence, instead of focusing on environmental impacts only, this study filled the gap about analyzing sustainability impacts of buildings from a holistic perspective.

Keywords

Buildings Economic input–output analysis Life cycle sustainability assessment Monte Carlo simulation Triple bottom line 

Supplementary material

11367_2014_753_MOESM1_ESM.docx (59 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 59 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil, Environmental, and Construction EngineeringUniversity of Central FloridaOrlandoUSA

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