The Life-Cycle Assessment of a Single-Storey Retail Building in Canada
Van Ooteghem, Kevin
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In North America, the operation of buildings accounts for approximately one third of the total energy use and greenhouse gas emissions annually. Office buildings are responsible for roughly 35% of the total commercial/institutional secondary energy use in Canada, followed by retail buildings at 17% (NRCan, OEE, 2010). In recent years, a number of researchers from around the world have conducted life-cycle assessment (LCA) studies to investigate the impacts of buildings on the environment. Most studies have focused on three types of buildings: office buildings, single residential dwellings, and multi-unit residential apartments. There have been almost no comprehensive LCA studies of retail buildings, specifically single-storey retail buildings. This is a problem, since compared to office buildings, single residential dwellings, and multi-unit residential apartments, retail buildings consume approximately 1.2, 2.0, and 2.3 times more energy per floor area respectively (NRCan, OEE, 2010). In addition, retail buildings usually undergo major resource intensive renovations far sooner than other building types. Therefore, the primary goal of this study was to conduct a comprehensive LCA for the components of a single-storey retail building located in Toronto, Canada, to determine which building components contribute the most towards the total life-cycle energy use and global warming potential (GWP) after 50 years. Using the latest LCA techniques, the total life-cycle energy use and GWP was calculated for 220 different building components including: exterior infill walls, roofs, structural systems, floors, windows, doors, foundations, and interior partition walls. Also, a comprehensive LCA study was conducted for five single-storey retail buildings (including a pre-engineered steel building system which is lacking in the literature), in order to determine which components of a single-storey retail building are responsible for the most environmental damage. For a typical single-storey retail building located in Toronto, Canada, the operating energy (and GWP) accounts for about 91% (88%) and the total embodied energy (and GWP) accounts for about 9% (12%) of the total energy (and GWP) after 50 years. The roof alone is responsible for nearly half of the total embodied energy and GWP of the entire building. The LCA study also found that after 50 years, the total energy (and GWP) of the five case study buildings only differed at most by 6% (7%), regardless of the choice of structural system, or whether the building was made predominately of steel or wood building components. This thesis concludes with a prioritized list of recommendations for reducing the total life-cycle energy use and GWP of a single-storey retail building in Canada.