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reducing life cycle impacts on 1980's housing stock in Ireland

The mandatory reduction by Ireland of the six main greenhouse gases by 13% above 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012 has been breached; rather it has now been increased by 25% above 1990 levels. The combustion of fossil fuels, natural gas‚ oil and coal is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. Ireland is exceedingly dependent on imported fossil fuels, making them almost unaffordable. The Irish economy will have to shoulder the burden of missing these targets whilst still meeting ever growing energy demands which puts its sustainable development at risk.

From the production of building materials through to construction, use and disassembly, energy and other inputs required in material extraction, refinement, fabrication, installation onsite, energy end-uses, (e.g. heating/cooling, lighting, fans & pumps, communications, water heating, domestic appliances), fuel use during building clear out and degradation of materials result in environmental parameters as residual products. These are CO2, N2O, SF6, (CH4), HFC134a and CF4 greenhouse gases as emissions to air, and NOX, SO2, CO, NMVOC and Dust/PM as air pollutant emissions, and Nitrate (NO3), Ammonium/ammonia (NH4+/NH3) and Phosphate (PO4 3-) as emissions to water. and are mainly from material processing machinery, transportation, fabrication, (e.g. timber, metals), construction/installation machinery, energy for site excavation, water consumed during construction, lighting, power production by utility companies, material decomposition, transportation, and other construction activities. The impact categories of these environmental parameters are Global Warming, Acidification, Ozone depletion, Eutrophication and Photochemical Oxidant potentials, while their environmental impacts are Climate change, acid rain, Ozone depletion and Photochemical Oxidant potentials(Creation potentials), etc.

This research therefore examines the hypotheses that:

(1) A study of the Life Cycle impacts of the 1980’s dwelling construction could add a comparative longitudinal dimension to progress in the sector.

(2) The solutions that affect the operational component of life cycle impacts of the 1980’s dwelling stock become inappropriate due to the unavoidable impacts of the materials used at construction.

(3) That applying energy efficiency strategies to various home systems will indicate the balance between embodied and operational energy.

To implement this experiment, the main objective is to evaluate the life cycle impacts of the materials used in the 1980’s housing stock by:

  • Developing a methodology that allows the characterisation (using relevant energy and material variables) of the stock, so that real representative samples emerge.
  • Carry out life cycle analysis and operating energy study of each house using DEAP or ESP-r dynamic simulation programme, and LCA tools based on computer models and tools will involve a combination of modelling and monitoring.
  • Identify the retrofits to increase energy performance the most and evaluate the impacts these retrofits will have on the life cycle performance of the each house and impact on the stock.

The LCA aspect of the results will interest government for integrated climate change and energy efficiency policy formulation, while the embodied energy aspect will interest industry for product competiveness.

For further information on this project please contact

Dr. Aidan Duffy

Albert Famuyibo