A Systematic Review of the Discrepancies in Life Cycle Assessments of Green Concrete

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Abstract

It is challenging to measure the environmental impact of concrete with the absence of a consensus on a standardized methodology for life cycle assessment (LCA). Consequently, the values communicated in the literature for “green” concrete alternatives vary widely between 84 and 612 kg eq CO2/m3. This does not provide enough evidence regarding the acclaimed environmental benefits compared to ordinary Portland cement concrete knowing that the average for the latter was concluded in this study to be around 370 kg eq CO2/m3. Thus, the purpose of this study was to survey the literature on concrete LCAs in an attempt to identify the potential sources of discrepancies and propose a potential solution. This was done through examining 146 papers systematically and attributing the sources of error to the four stages of an LCA: scope definition, inventory data, impact assessment and results interpretations. The main findings showed that there are 13 main sources of discrepancies in a concrete LCA that contribute to the incompatibility between the results. These sources varied between (i) user-based choices such as depending on a cradle-to-gate scope, selecting a basic volume-based functional unit and ignoring the impact allocation and (ii) intrinsic uncertainty in some of the elements, such as the means of transportation, the expected service life and fluctuations in market prices. The former affects the reliability of a study, and hence, a concrete LCA methodology should not allow for any of the uncertainties. On the other hand, the latter affects the degree of uncertainty of the final outcome, and hence, we recommended conducting scenario analyses and communicating the aggregated uncertainty through the selected indicators.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4803
Number of pages26
JournalApplied Sciences
Volume9
Issue number22
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 10 Nov 2019

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