UBC Undergraduate Research

A life cycle analysis of the Geography Building Hosseini, Zahra


This life cycle analysis was performed on the UBC Geography Building, a 51,883 sf, wood-frame academic building built in 1924, for the purpose of establishing a materials inventory and environmental impact reference to be applied in the assessment of potential upgrades. It was also completed simultaneously with 20 other institutional buildings at UBC for creating a benchmark as a standard against which existing buildings and new constructions assess and interpret. The benchmark is assessed for each environmental impact category through calculating the average impact per square meter of the element. The Takeoff model, developed by last year student1, and the original architectural drawings of the Geography Building are used to check the accuracy of the quantity of materials (length, area, and number) used as the IE input data. In this project, IE Inputs are sorted based on a modified version of level 3 of Canadian Institute of Quantity Surveyors (CIQS) format. From the improved model and using Athena Sustainable Materials Institute’s Impact Estimator Bill of Materials was and Environmental impacts of each level 3 element were determined. The largest quantities of material were gypsum board, softwood plywood, 6mil polyethylene, cedar wood shiplap, and stucco. The summary of environmental impact measures for different level 3 CIQS categories were also obtained from IE software and the hotspots for each environmental impact category among different lifecycle stages and among different level 3 CIQS categories were identified. Roof Constructions, Walls above Grade, and Foundations have the highest impacts respectively. There are only very small basement areas in the building and the ground floors are inclined wood joist floors which are included in Upper level construction elements. Thus, the Lowest floor construction and Walls below grade, does not have a significant environmental impact. The comparisons also indicate that the Construction stage has much more environmental impacts that Production stage. In comparison with CIVL 498C 2013 benchmark (date: 11/24/2013), the total environmental impacts of Geography building, its impacts for Production and Construction stages, and also its impacts for all the CIQS level 3 elements are way below average, except for the Foundation and Walls below grade elements. This difference can be related to the fact that the building is modeled based on its primary drawing from 1924 which was intended to be a temporary building. Thus, the quantity of materials used in the project is minimal. There is no heating insulation material in the drawings and very minimal concrete work. The building does not have slab on grade in the ground level and all the structure is wooden. A reason for the higher impacts for the foundation in this building is that the quantity of this element is much less that other projects, because the building does not have slab on grade. Hence, the environmental impacts of the foundation elements are divided to the floor area of the footings and crawlspace walls, while in other projects the impacts are divided into the slab on grade area, which covers most of the building site. An important lesson that can be learned from comparing this old building with its more recent equivalents is the significant role of wood in decreasing the environmental impacts of a project, as oppose to concrete or metal structures. Further, detailed LCA analysis of structural elements in UBC buildings can help reducing the environmental impacts in future projects.Disclaimer: “UBC SEEDS provides students with the opportunity to share the findings of their studies, as well as their opinions, conclusions and recommendations with the UBC community. The reader should bear in mind that this is a student project/report and is not an official document of UBC. Furthermore readers should bear in mind that these reports may not reflect the current status of activities at UBC. We urge you to contact the research persons mentioned in a report or the SEEDS Coordinator about the current status of the subject matter of a project/report.”

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