Exploring the Environmental Impact of A Residential Life Cycle, Including Retrofits: Ecological Footprint Application to A Life Cycle Analysis Framework in Ontario
The residential sector is recognized as a major energy consumer and thus a significant contributor to climate change. Rather than focus only on current energy consumption and the associated emissions, there is a need to broaden sustainability research to include full life cycle contributions and impacts. This thesis looks at houses from the perspective of the Ecological Footprint (EF), a well-known sustainability indicator. The research objective is to integrate EF and Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) measures to provide an enhanced tool to measure the sustainability implications of residential energy retrofit decisions. Exemplifying single-detached houses of the early 20th century, the century-old REEP House (downtown Kitchener, Canada), together with its high performance energy retrofits, is examined in detail. This research combines material, energy and carbon emission studies. Its scope covers the life cycle of the house, including the direct and indirect consumption of material and energy, and concomitant carbon emissions during its stages of material extraction, transportation, construction, operation, and demolition. The results show that the REEP House had a significant embodied impact on the environment when it was built and high operating energy and EF requirements because of the low levels of insulation. Even though the renovations to improve energy efficiency by 80% introduce additional embodied environmental impacts, they are environmentally sound activities because the environmental payback period is less than two years.