Comparison of the Life Cycle Assessments of an Insulating Concrete Form House and a Wood Frame House
This report is an update of Life Cycle Assessment of an Insulating Concrete Form House Compared to a Wood Frame House (Marceau and VanGeem 2002). It presents the results of an assessment of the environmental attributes of concrete construction compared to wood-framed construction.
A life cycle assessment (LCA) was conducted on a house modeled with two types of exterior walls: a wood-framed wall and an ICF wall. The LCA was carried out according to the guidelines in International Standard ISO 14044, Environmental Management – Life Cycle Assessment – Requirements and Guidelines. The house was modeled in five cities, representing a range of U.S. climates: Miami, Phoenix, Seattle, Washington (DC), and Chicago.
The 228-square meter (2450-square foot), two-story, single family house has four bedrooms and a two-car garage. The system boundary includes the inputs and outputs of energy, materials, and emissions to air, soil, and water from extraction of raw materials though construction, maintenance and occupancy. The house energy use was modeled using DOE-2.1E and the life cycle impact assessment was modeled using SimaPro.
The results show that for a given climate, the life cycle environmental impacts are greater for the wood house than for the ICF house. The most significant environmental impacts are not from construction materials but from the production of electricity and natural gas and the use of electricity and natural gas in the houses by the occupants.
Martha Van Geem, Principal Engineer at CTLGroup, co-authored this 2008 report with Medgar L. Marceau.
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