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Sustainability evaluation framework for building cooling systems: a comparative study of snow storage and conventional chiller systems

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In Canada, the residential building sector consumes 17 % of the total energy and 15 % of the total greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, the energy demand for cooling in the residential sector is increasing due to the large occupancy floor area and high usage of air conditioning. Minimizing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions is one of the highest priority goals set for national energy management strategies in developed countries including Canada. In this study, a framework based on the life cycle assessment approach is developed to assess the environmental impacts of different building cooling systems, namely conventional snow storage system, watertight snow storage system, high-density snow storage system, and the conventional chiller cooling system. Moreover, all these systems have varying energy requirements and associated environmental impacts during different phases (extraction and construction, utilization, and end of life) of the life cycle of a building. A low-rise residential building in Kelowna (BC, Canada) has been selected for the pragmatic application of the proposed framework. The annual cooling energy demand for the building is estimated for different phases. Subsequently, the life cycle impact assessment has been carried out using SimaPro 8.1 software and TRACI 2.1 method. For sustainability evaluation of different cooling systems over their life cycle, multi-criteria decision analysis has been employed using the ‘Preference Ranking Organization Method for Enrichment Evaluation (PROMETHEE II).’ The results showed that the snow storage systems tend to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and associated environmental impacts more than the conventional system.

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Correspondence to Kasun Hewage.

Appendix 1: Application of the PROMETHEE II for ranking of building cooling system alternatives

Appendix 1: Application of the PROMETHEE II for ranking of building cooling system alternatives

  • Step 1: Formation of decision matrix—based on the LCA results, the decision matrix developed for three life cycle phases of the cooling systems is presented in Table 3.

    Table 3 Decision matrix including all the impact categories of cooling systems for three life cycle phases
  • Step 2: Checking the need for normalization—the impact categories in the decision matrix possess different measurement units and need to be normalized. In the normalization process, the recent benchmark established by the provincial and federal government of Canada to minimize 30 % of the GHG emissions by 2040 has been used. Consequently, the least value obtained for a given impact category (for a given alternative) is further reduced by 30 %, and then the values obtained for all the alternatives have been normalized correspond to this value. The results are presented in Table 4.

    Table 4 Normalized decision matrix for all the impact categories of cooling systems
  • Step 3: Evaluation of weights for each environmental impact category—weights of each impact categories were calculated using the rank sum weights method, as described in the methodology section. The impact categories were listed out and ranked by the experts working in LCA according to their importance from 1 to n, where n is the number of impact categories. Using the rank sum weights method as described in Eq. (2), the normalized weights obtained are presented in Table 5.

    Table 5 Weight estimation using the rank sum method
  • Step 4: Aggregate the environmental impact categories based on life cycle phases for each alternative—weighted sum method (WSM) is used to aggregate the environmental impact categories. Normalized attributes are multiplied with weights and summed for each alternative according to Eq. (3), and the results are presented in Table 6.

    Table 6 Aggregated indices of impact categories using the WSM
  • Step 5: Construct the outranking relation—Table 5 has been used to rank the alternatives using the PROMETHEE II method. In order to rank the cooling systems, the weightings 0.3, 0.65, and 0.05 were selected by the expert opinion for the extraction and construction, operation, and end-of-life phases, respectively. The operations phase was given higher importance as it has the longest time period and thus has the highest chronic effects. In order to derive the preference index, a pair-wise comparison was performed for all the alternatives against each criterion as per Eqs. (58). Using Eq. (9), the multi-objective outranking index has been calculated and presented in Table 7.

    Table 7 The multi-criteria outranking index
  • Step 6: Exploitation of the outranking relation—using Eqs. (1012), the outgoing, incoming, and net flows have been estimated and are presented in Table 8.

    Table 8 Outranking relation using the PROMETHEE method

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Kumar, V., Hewage, K., Haider, H. et al. Sustainability evaluation framework for building cooling systems: a comparative study of snow storage and conventional chiller systems. Clean Techn Environ Policy 19, 137–155 (2017).

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