IEA EBC Annex 72 J: Understanding the impact of individual, industry & political decisions on transitions towards environmental sustainability

Moncaster, Alice; Malmqvist, Tove; Polycarpou, Kyriacos; Anderson, Jane and Francart, Nicholas (2023). IEA EBC Annex 72 J: Understanding the impact of individual, industry & political decisions on transitions towards environmental sustainability. treeze Ltd., Kanzleistrasse 4, CH-8610 Uster, Switzerland.




There is a wealth of research and now data on greenhouse gas emissions from individual construction materials and components and from whole buildings (embodied impacts), and on their measurement through LCA. There is a general assumption that measuring and reducing these impacts is a rational decision, and one which will therefore inevitably be taken, given the correct tools and understanding.

However at present it is clear that, in the majority of construction projects and the majority of countries, this is not the case. LCA is generally not used, and embodied impacts are not measured or reduced, despite the existence of an accepted methodology for ten years, of an increasing number of data-bases and calculation tools, and of growing awareness and knowledge. If the apparently rational deci-sion to measure and reduce these impacts is not being taken, it is important to explore what other fac-tors might be relevant. This subtask has focused on researching how environmental impacts of build-ings are addressed, and what mechanisms and factors influence decisions, in ‘real world’ contexts. The ultimate purpose is to develop recommendations about how LCA might be most effectively intro-duced and applied in different national and industry contexts.

The initial hypothesis proposed that these decisions are affected by four additional factors: firstly, the role of individuals in projects, including their own knowledge or interest of environmental impacts, as well as their social and individual power to make decisions; secondly, the tools and artefacts that are used in policy, construction and design, and their apparent and real impact on building decisions; third, the industry and organizational context within which individuals work and in which projects are realized; and finally, the national policy and regulation landscape.

A number of qualitative case studies of real world situations were developed to consider the impact of these factors across three European countries with contrasting industry cultures: Sweden, Cyprus and the UK. Qualitative case study was chosen as the methodology in order to include the complexities of real world decisions and to explore these complexities in their context. The case studies included: mul-ti-family public housing projects in Sweden, Cyprus and the UK; single housing developers in Sweden; in-house LCA tool developments in the UK; and the longitudinal development of regulation in Sweden and the UK.

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