UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A probabilistic approach for estimating environmental impacts over the life cycle of buildings Guerra Castrejón, Edwin Alfredo


There is increased awareness and concern regarding human activities with high environmental impacts caused by the construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning of the built environment. The work presented in this thesis helps predict holistically the environmental impact indicators of different building design options. A probabilistic framework, applicable to multiple building function types, is proposed to estimate the environmental metrics of energy, water and global warming potential. The environmental impact indicators are studied at varying resolutions of data quality. The proposed framework differs from alternate tools by explicitly accounting for uncertainty through the use of random variables in its models. The modeling approach emphasizes greater transparency of the environmental impact intensity values that relate known information about the building, such as material quantities, with respective environmental impacts. Explicit environmental impact models are presented for each of the building’s life cycle phases, including extraction, manufacture, on-site construction, operation, maintenance, and end of life. The methodology is then demonstrated by analyzing a sample residence in Ontario. The environmental impacts associated with the entire life cycle of the building are reported and possible improvements to the methodology are identified. The ability to analyze the probability of exceeding an environmental impact threshold is a feature of this work that is useful in the refinement of environmental performance rating systems. The general lack of public information about the environmental impact of the manufacturing of building components in North America, as well as uncertainty about component replacement frequency and the building service life continue to pose a challenge for environmental impact analysis. However, this thesis presents a new probabilistic framework in which this uncertainty is explicitly identified and addressed.

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