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NativeLCA - a systematic approach for the selection of environmental datasets as generic data: application to construction products in a national context

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Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this paper is to propose guidelines for the selection of an accurate life cycle assessment (LCA) dataset of building products to be used as generic data for a national context.

Methods

The guidelines are structured within a methodology, called NativeLCA. First, a review of available datasets for construction products is presented such as generic LCA and Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) databases for both national (e.g. France, Germany, Spain etc.) and European context. Secondly, a method is proposed to choose appropriate generic datasets by means of a hybrid methodology. A meta-analysis is conducted in the first step on the sample of collected datasets from the literature. When relevant, product-specific data (EPD of the different producers) are averaged to represent an average data or existing generic data are adapted to be more suitable for the context. Then, a data quality assessment enables to rank the different datasets according to the goal and scope of the study.

Results and discussion

This study provides consistent guidelines that can be used by building LCA practitioners to select relevant datasets depending on their goal and scope. A full case study for stone wool boards illustrates and demonstrates the applicability and usefulness of the proposed methodology, namely in the selection of a coherent dataset as generic data for a national context. This work highlights the issues in terms of choice and adaptation of existing data for a national context. Industry data cannot be adapted due to confidentiality issues unlike unit process generic data. The use of data quality indicators then helps to select the relevant generic data for each context according to user needs.

Conclusions

While further efforts are needed to develop regional and sector-specific LCA databases adapted for each national context, the proposed guidelines showed that the current use or adaptation of existing data, if consistently done, can lead practitioners to increase the reliability of building LCA studies according to their goal and scope definition.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    A specific EPD consistent in terms of methodological rules may be far from representing the production volume of the product sold in the national market. This particularity needs to be documented in the data quality aspects before being assessed (see Sect. 3.3).

  2. 2.

    Neither existing nor on-going site-specific data from national LCA studies will be subjected to this checking because: they will not be used in the calculation of reference values; they will only be compared with the remaining datasets in the last step of this methodology.

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Acknowledgements

The authors gratefully acknowledge the scholarship of Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia of Portugal (FCT) to support the PhD study of the first author and the financial support of the ICIST Research Institute, Instituto Superior Técnico, Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal, the Scientific and Technical Centre for Buildings (CSTB), France, and of the European Union, OP RDI project No. CZ.1.05/3.1.00/13.0283—Intelligent Buildings. The authors also acknowledge the reviewers for their expert comments and suggestions, and Yann Leroy for fruitful feedbacks, which contributed to the improvement of this paper.

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Correspondence to José Dinis Silvestre.

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Responsible editor: Göran Finnveden

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Silvestre, J.D., Lasvaux, S., Hodková, J. et al. NativeLCA - a systematic approach for the selection of environmental datasets as generic data: application to construction products in a national context. Int J Life Cycle Assess 20, 731–750 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-015-0885-8

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Keywords

  • Building products
  • Data quality
  • EPD
  • Generic data
  • LCA