The Global GreenTag and Evah Institute team’s delivery of three papers at the SETAC Europe conference in Brussels last month were warmly received for their unique focus to start measuring positive benefits of greener products and how they progress towards true sustainability.
GreenTag has been committed for some time to develop a novel new system called Life Cycle Benefit Analysis (LCBA) in association with the Evah Institute. Airing the idea for the five day European SETAC (Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry) forum, drew positive interest from the SETAC community.
David Baggs, Global GreenTag’s CEO and Program Director delivered the paper: Driving ‘Beyond LCA’ Metrics for Net Positive Cities.
Delwyn Jones, Director of the Ecquate Evah Institute, presented Positive LCA Factoring Planetary Boundaries.
Mathilde Vlieg, Product Assessor with Global GreenTag, continued with the focus of extending LCA practices and presenting the paper: Forest Product LCA: Carbon Form, Fire, Fuel and Fate Rules.
In greater detail, the three papers presented opened discussion for a greater scope using LCA in the following areas:
Driving ‘Beyond LCA’ Metrics for Net Positive Cities
David Bagg’s paper (authored with Delwyn, Mathilde and GreenTag’s Lead Products Assessor, Shloka Ashar) was the first of the papers presented to open the case for measuring product positive impacts.
David presented case studies using metrics and tools that show how it is possible to measure progress towards true sustainability across the whole built environment – from products to buildings and infrastructure for cities. David presented:
- Applications of the novel Life Cycle Benefit Analysis (LCBA) concept, including exemplars vital for establishing how developments and products can deliver net positive carbon outcomes.
- The need for a change in the way LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) is conducted.
- How to integrate planetary boundaries as well as address calls to correct LCA methods for Climate Change Assessment from 25 Non Government Organisations (NGOs) from 6 countries.
- Various tools that enable industry-wide, easy comparison of products and with adaption, assessment of developments, explore what is needed to constitute truly sustainable communities and cities.
Positive LCA Factoring Planetary Boundaries
This paper by Delwyn Jones (authored with Mathilde Vlieg and Shloka Ashar) challenged the existing boundaries of LCIA. The International Standard Organisation Environmental Management LCA methodology focuses mostly on pollution generation and resource depletion, however, Delwyn told the forum:
“If LCA is to assess architecturally ‘Positive Development’ in ‘eco-retrofitting of the vast urban fabric we already inhabit’ it must evolve beyond LCIA.”
Delwyn’s presentation posited that we extend life cycle assessment (LCA) beyond impact assessment (LCIA) to consider benefit assessment (LCBA) integrating planetary boundaries, adding that:
“The reach of LCIA is negative to zero often in loss of human health, ecosystem quality and natural capital. Apart from lower ecological loads, LCA methods need to quantify recovery and regeneration of safe operating space and planetary boundaries for sustainable development.”
To illustrate her case, Delwyn tabled preliminary results from a residential high rise garbage chute over 60 years use – cradle to grave. Results showed:
“Overall gains in space and diverting recyclables from landfill are far greater than losses from manufacturing impacts,”
To quantify positive outcomes, a proposed LCBA theory, Delwyn said, calls for new concepts, methods and metrics to assess positive benefits, goals and benchmarks to supplement established LCIA methodology.
Forest Product LCA: Carbon Form, Fire, Fuel and Fate Rules
Mathilde Vlieg’s paper (authored with Delwyn Jones and Shloka Ashar) also attracted a lot of interest in Brussels.
Mathilde outlined work that pushes beyond the limits of current life cycle methodology to enable modelling of potential and actual carbon sequestration and sinks. Practitioners of LCA, she said, have long struggled with this issue, as there are unique fundamental challenges in modelling e.g., forest forms, history, habitat richness, species diversity and management.
Mathilde’s presentation demonstrated that while it is argued that stored carbon should not be counted as it will re-enter the atmosphere sooner or later, there is a ‘recognised’ need for accounting of sequestered carbon. She warned that:
“… this time factor is critical as we approach tipping points in the next decades …when LCIA practitioners currently often ignore carbon sequestration, most significant legal and ethical issues arise.”
Mathilde’s paper reviewed more than 30 cradle to grave case studies of plantation product supply chains. Results considered exclusion of Brazilian and Malaysian timber sequestration, because of continuing loss of rainforest forms across both nations.
The paper found:
“The significant difference in carbon uptake found depended on biofuel use for debarking, chipping, and sawmilling. Results were compared for timber fibre rich exterior cladding with various carbon sink values considering tropical interior boards and others. Forest product carbon sink values very significantly with management form, fire history, fuel use and interior and exterior applications and fate in re-use, recycling and landfill varied so LCA with detail knowledge of forest sources is essential.”