Marlo’s windows: why it is a mistake to ignore hazard resistance in LCA
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Hazard-resistant materials for homes promise environmental benefits, such as avoided waste and materials for repairs, which can be overlooked by scoping in life-cycle assessment (LCA) approaches. Our motivation for pursuing this research was to see how incorporating these avoided losses in the LCA could impact choices between hazard-resistant and traditional materials.
Two choices common in home construction were analyzed using an LCA process that incorporates catastrophe modeling to consider avoided losses made possible with hazard-resistant materials. These findings were compared to those based on a similar LCA that did not consider these avoided losses. The choices considered were standard windows vs. windows with impact-resistant glass and standard windows with no opening protection vs. standard windows with impact-resistant storm panels.
Results and discussion
For the window comparisons, the standard products were environmentally preferable when avoided losses from storm events were not considered in the LCA. However, when avoided losses were considered, the hazard-resistant products were environmentally preferable. Considering avoided losses in LCAs, as illustrated by the window choices, can change which product appears to be the environmentally preferable option. Further, as home service life increases, the environmental net benefit of the hazard-resistant product increases.
Our results show the value of an LCA approach which allows more complete scopings of comparisons between hazard-resistant materials and their traditional counterparts. This approach will help translate the impacts of hazard-resistant products into the more familiar language used to talk about “green” products, enabling more informed decisions by product manufacturers, those who develop building certification systems and codes, researchers, and other building industry stakeholders.
KeywordsBuildings Catastrophe models Durability Hazard resistance Hurricanes Hybrid LCA LCA Resilience Risk management Windows
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through their Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. The authors are also grateful for the opportunity to undertake an intensive research experience with Risk Management Solutions (RMS) and for access to their RiskLink software.
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