Completed Residential LCAs?

Hi CLF Community,

Does anyone know of a resource for whole building LCAs of residential buildings?

I’ve been a home builder/renovator for 12 years and have jumped into grad school to try and make a difference in my field. I’m trying to determine which materials make up the greatest embodied carbon in residential construction in hopes that I can suggest alternatives to other builders. I know LCAs are outside of the typical budget for a new construction home or a renovation, but I have to imagine there are a few atypical people/firms/developers who are interested in this topic and have funded studies (I hope).

There is plenty of research about concrete, but after that I’ve been struggling to find enough studies to corroborate the other data (one says windows, one says insulation). If anyone could point me in the right direction, or confirm the data sets don’t exist (at least not to the public/university student) it would be much appreciated.

Sincerely,
-josh

Hi Josh,

In an attempt to keep this as short as possible, in short, the answer you are looking for is “it depends”. In Whole Building LCAs the most intensive materials are linked with material intensity. Basically, where you’ll be getting the “bulk” of your emissions will depend on which material you have the most. That translates to concrete & steel. On the other hand, if you look into emissions/kg then insulation is extremely potent.

A random example using One Click LCA Planetary’s database:

Glass wool insulation panels, unfaced, generic, 25 kg/m3 (1.56 lbs/ft3), (applicable for densities: 0-25 kg/m3 (0-1.56 lbs/ft3)), Lambda=0.031 W/(m.K)
GWP: 1.13 kg CO2e / kg

and

Ready-mix concrete, normal-strength, generic, C30/37 (4400/5400 PSI), 10% (typical) recycled binders in cement (300 kg/m3 / 18.72 lbs/ft3)
GWP: 0.11 kg CO2e / kg

The sheer mass of concrete though makes it more impactful.

You can always use OCL Planetary to do test these differences yourself.

I suggest looking into the great work of @chris1 (Chris Magwood) and the Endeavor Center. And their new group Builders for Climate Action https://www.buildersforclimateaction.org/
They’ve got great resources specifically for homebuilders including videos etc.

Thank you both for these great resources!

You might also look at the work of Paul Eldrenkamp at Byggmeister You might have to call or email them) and the work of South Mountain Company. Both of these organizations have done extensive LCA work for their residential projects.