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A comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of concrete and steel-prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction structures in Malaysia

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Abstract

In recent years, off-site volumetric construction has been promoted as a viable strategy for improving the sustainability of the construction industry. Most prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction (PPVC) structures are composed of either steel or concrete; thus, it is imperative to carry out life cycle assessments (LCAs) for both types of structures. PPVC is a method by which free-standing volumetric modules—complete with finishes for walls, floors, and ceilings—are prefabricated and then transferred and erected on-site. Although many studies have examined these structures, few have combined economic and environmental life cycle analyses, particularly for prefinished volumetric construction buildings. The purpose of this study is to utilize LCA and life cycle cost (LCC) methods to compare the environmental impacts and costs of steel and concrete PPVCs “from cradle to grave.” The results show that steel necessitates higher electricity usage than concrete in all environmental categories, while concrete has a higher emission rate. Steel outperforms concrete by approximately 37% in non-renewable energy measures, 38% in respiratory inorganics, 43% in land occupation, and 40% in mineral extraction. Concrete, on the other hand, performs 54% better on average in terms of measures adopted for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Steel incurs a higher cost in the construction stage but is ultimately the more economical choice, costing 4% less than concrete PPVC owing to the recovery, recycling, and reuse of materials. In general, steel PPVC exhibits better performance, both in terms of cost and environmental factors (excluding GHG emissions). This study endeavors to improve the implementation and general understanding of PPVC.

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Correspondence to Ali Tighnavard Balasbaneh.

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Balasbaneh, A.T., Ramli, M.Z. A comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of concrete and steel-prefabricated prefinished volumetric construction structures in Malaysia. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 43186–43201 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-10141-3

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