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Reuse of construction materials: Environmental performance and assessment methodology
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Environmental Technique and Management . Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Reuse is a measure for resource-saving materials and energy use, which is stressed in the concept of kretsloppsanpassning, or societal industrial ecology (SIE), as it will be termed in this thesis. Reuse is here used as a general term for any kind of reuse and divided into recirculation, upgrading and cascading, according to the degradation of the inner material structure. Reuse of construction materials in society is mainly done with the belief that any kind of reuse is environmentally beneficial. However, this assumption is seldom critically assessed.

The aim of this thesis was to examine under which conditions reuse of construction materials in the Swedish building and transportation sectors is beneficial to the environment. In order to identify critical conditions, the environmental performance of actual building projects that to a large extent utilised reused building materials was assessed (Papers V-VI). To better understand the practice of SIE and how it was implemented, the transportation sector was studied (Paper I). In order to address the issue of assessing the environmental performance of construction material reuse, method development became an important part of this thesis. Methods and tools employed in this thesis were required to be able to simultaneously address different system boundaries and also involve simplification.

Studying the implementation of SIE revealed the lack of a holistic approach in environmental management, though it is present in the overall objectives of the SIE concept (Paper I). This was concluded by studying the energy and material stocks and flows in a life-cycle perspective in the environmental management of the Swedish National Rail and Road administrations. The study showed that the SIE-related measures implemented were outflow oriented, while the material inflows were generally quantified. Overall, the management and use phases were addressed, while the construction and deconstruction phases were poorly considered.

Studying environmental assessment methods showed that an important characteristic is the system boundaries, which to a large extent decide which issues could be addressed and what actually could be studied (Paper II). Environmental assessment methods applied to reuse of construction materials were organised in an assessment framework of four system levels: the material level, the local environment level, the narrow life-cycle level and the industrial system level. It was concluded that mainstream environmental assessment of construction material reuse that is performed in the process of development consent and also in research, mainly addresses the narrow scope of the material level. In order to apply a holistic approach to environmental assessments of reuse of construction materials, the system boundaries needed to be widened.

When selecting system boundaries, methods and indicators, researchers indirectly decide on which environmental pressures we consider the most important (cf. Papers II - III). There are trade-offs between making broad or deep environmental assessments. To accomplish an environmental assessment wide in its scope requires abundant resources and is complicated to carry through. Simplifications of the complex reality are always needed. However, to counteract the risk of problem shifting, the simplified methods and indicators need to be balanced for environmental relevance and used with knowledge of what they reflect and what is left out (Paper III). One example of such method simultaneously environmentally relevant and capable to cope with wide system boundaries is the study of primary energy use in a life cycle perspective, applied to a material an energy use context (see Papers IV-VI).

In searching for a tool to prioritise building materials in building research and environmental management of the building sector, the total amount of building materials present in the Swedish building material stock was multiplied by their embodied energy coefficients (Paper IV). This product was normalized for the building materials’ service life. The accounting resulted in an ordering of building material categories according to their energy intensity. These are, in decreasing order: wood materials, bricks and other ceramics, concrete and steel.

After calculating energy use in a life-cycle perspective for the recirculation, upgrading and cascading of larger building reuse projects of concrete and clay bricks, it is not self-evident that reuse is beneficial for the environment (Paper V, VI). It mainly depends on the use of auxiliary materials and their embodied energy, but also the primary energy use for the reuse processes, such as transportation distance and mode between the deconstruction and construction sites. In order to improve the environmental benefits of reuse, primarily the auxiliary materials used in current reuse projects should be minimised. Otherwise, there is a risk that the energy use for these materials turns reuse into an unfavourable process for the environment. Furthermore, reuse should preferably be environmentally assessed with a wide scope before implementation. What is included in such environmental assessment is significant for the outcome and the pictured environmental performance.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institutionen för konstruktions- och produktionsteknik , 2005.
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 928
Keyword [en]
Environment, societal industrial ecology (SIE), reuse of construction materials
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-5041ISBN: 91-85297-51-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-5041DiVA: diva2:21001
Public defence
2005-03-31, C3, Hus C, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
On the day of the public defence of the doctoral thesis the status of article III was: Accepted.Available from: 2005-04-19 Created: 2005-04-19 Last updated: 2009-03-12
List of papers
1. Missing the target?: Implementation of industrial ecology in the Swedish transportation sector
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Missing the target?: Implementation of industrial ecology in the Swedish transportation sector
Manuscript (Other academic)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13588 (URN)
Available from: 2005-04-19 Created: 2005-04-19 Last updated: 2010-01-13
2. Environmental evaluation of reuse of by-products as road construction materials in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental evaluation of reuse of by-products as road construction materials in Sweden
2003 (English)In: Waste Management, ISSN 0956-053X, Vol. 23, no 2, 107-116 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Reuse of by-products in road construction is most often environmentally evaluated from the narrow perspective of the material itself, i.e. the material level. In this article, we argue that the current mainstream environmental evaluation of reuse of by-products in road construction should use wider system boundaries. In order to illustrate the importance of system boundaries to the final result, three additional levels that complement the material level, are applied to the environmental evaluation of reuse of by-products. In total these four levels of evaluation are, firstly, the material itself, mainly studied by leaching tests, secondly, the road environment studied by substance flow analysis, furthermore, a narrow life-cycle perspective and, finally, the industrial system level that addresses the reuse of by-products in a broader sense. Methods and tools applied to different levels emphasise different environmental aspects and consequently they are appropriate for addressing different questions. However, especially for the evaluation of environmental aspects on the industrial system level, there is a need to develop the methods. To apply these four levels to the evaluation would broaden the knowledge about the environmental impacts of the reuse of by-products. We argue that current leaching tests have to be complemented by the broader system boundaries used in substance flow studies and in life-cycle assessments in order to discuss the use of resources and environmental impacts from a wider perspective.

National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13589 (URN)10.1016/S0956-053X(02)00052-1 (DOI)
Available from: 2005-04-19 Created: 2005-04-19
3. Environmental Relevance and Use of Energy Indicators in Environmental Management and Research.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental Relevance and Use of Energy Indicators in Environmental Management and Research.
2006 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, Vol. 14, no 2, 134-145 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Energy use as a single indicator or in a set of few indicators is often used in applied research in the building, transportation and energy sectors. However, the environmental relevance of energy indicators is seldom questioned. The relation between environmental relevance and energy indicators might seem obvious. Nevertheless, how this is obvious has not been thoroughly discussed. The aim of this paper is to investigate the environmental relevance of the energy indicator and discuss implications for its use. The approach is to express environmental pressure in different environmental impact categories and determine the contribution to these from energy use. Because not all impact categories are closely linked to energy indicators, the aim and context in which it is used must be apparent.

Keyword
Energy indicator; Environmental pressure; Environmental assessment; Energy system; Environmental management
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-14493 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2005.01.004 (DOI)
Available from: 2007-05-22 Created: 2007-05-22 Last updated: 2013-11-29
4. Prioritizing building materials in environmental assessment of the Swedish building sector
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Prioritizing building materials in environmental assessment of the Swedish building sector
2005 (English)In: Building and Environment, ISSN 0360-1323Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13591 (URN)
Available from: 2005-04-19 Created: 2005-04-19 Last updated: 2010-05-31
5. Environmental analysis of reuse of cast-in-situ concrete in the building sector
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental analysis of reuse of cast-in-situ concrete in the building sector
2000 (English)In: Towards Sustainability in the Built Environment, 2000, 234-243 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13592 (URN)
Available from: 2005-04-19 Created: 2005-04-19
6. Recirculation, upgrading and cascading of building materials: What is the difference?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Recirculation, upgrading and cascading of building materials: What is the difference?
2005 (English)Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13593 (URN)
Available from: 2005-04-19 Created: 2005-04-19

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