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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Emergy-based life cycle assessment (Em-LCA) for sustainability appraisal of built environment Reza, Bahareh


Construction and operation of built environment including various types of buildings (such as commercial, residential, institutional) and urban infrastructures are facing challenges because of accelerated pace of resource depletion, waste generation, high energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change impacts. Several new practices and efforts are underway to develop technical basis to assess the environmental and associated socio-economic impacts due to the design, construction, operation, and disposal of the built environment, and achieve sustainable development goals. In recent years, sustainability assessment or appraisal of a built environment has gained increasing focus and led to integrate sustainable development goals and guidelines in day-to-day decision-making. However, developing a pragmatic sustainability appraisal tool for built environment systems is a key challenge facing planners, policy makers, asset managers, and engineering professionals worldwide. This research developed a comprehensive framework, based on the integration of emergy synthesis and life cycle assessment (LCA), for sustainability appraisal of built environment systems. The main objective of Emergy-based Life Cycle Assessment (Em-LCA) framework is to support decision-making for asset management by quantifying sustainability performance principles (environmental protection, and socio-economic development) throughout the life cycle of the built environment systems. The developed Em-LCA framework is applied to selected built environment systems (i.e., linear infrastructure and building systems) using cradle-to grave approach (i.e., from design and project planning to the end-of-life). The Em-LCA framework is implemented to classify life cycle inflows/outflows (e.g., matter, energy/waste, and emission) of the selected built environment systems and to deliver a quantitative characterization of the associated impacts (e.g., natural resources depletion, wastes generation, GHG and toxic emissions, and life cycle costs). Further, the results of Em-LCA are integrated for different sustainability performance indicators to estimate the overall environmental and socio-economic impacts. To address the uncertainty issues, fuzzy-based uncertainty modeling has been used to validate the reliability of the Em-LCA results. The results of this research clearly prove that, Em-LCA offers a realistic and pragmatic sustainability assessment framework that will overcome several challenges of existing sustainability assessment and traditional asset management frameworks by providing quantitative and transparent results to facilitate informed decision-making.

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