New study discovers important gaps in life-cycle approach used to account for GHGs in buildings
By Philip Gass, Senior Policy Advisor, International Institute for Sustainable Development
In Canada, there is rising interest in how building materials may affect greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and whether innovations and choices in these materials can help the country meet its emission reduction targets. The fact that over 30 per cent of GHGs come from the communities and structures we build for ourselves underscores the need for us to get this right.
To date, evidence for optimizing the choice of building materials has largely been drawn from life-cycle assessment (LCA) studies that consider the GHG (and other) impacts of building products at each phase of their “cradle-to-grave” lifespan (i.e., production, use and end of life).
While LCA is the best-available approach for evaluating GHG performance of alternative building products and designs, policy-makers and building designers should be aware there are also limitations, challenges and uncertainties that need to be considered when looking to decarbonize our buildings. We should exercise caution when making decisions that advocate for one building material over another.
Recent research by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has identified serious gaps in how emissions from building materials and products are being measured and accounted for. Failure to account for all carbon emissions may undercut today’s climate change efforts and shortchange future emission reduction opportunities.