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Sustainability has become an important consideration for the construction industry. Increasing numbers of clients are analysing environmental factors in relation to proposed design, materials and construction methods. Various tools have been developed for measuring sustainability, including life-cycle analysis. This is mainly concerned with the environmental impact of materials, taking into account the entire process, from extracting raw materials, through processing, construction, planned lifetime maintenance, demolition, disposal and recycling. The analysis may be carried out to give the environmental profile of a particular structure or part of a structure (known as a ‘functional unit’).
The information can be used to compare alternative construction options. For example, changing construction materials may improve some aspects of the profile, such as initial energy usage, but the overall profile may be worse if chemical waste is higher. Such decisions may depend on the importance of each impact category to the client.
For further information see Life-cycle assessment/analysis of concrete, published in CONCRETE in March 2004, pp 29–30. Copies are available as a free download from the Members Area of the Concrete Society web site.
Acknowledgement: The Concrete Society