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Brunklaus, B, Thormark, C and Baumann, H (2010) Illustrating limitations of energy studies of buildings with LCA and actor analysis. Building Research & Information, 38(03), 265–79.

  • Type: Journal Article
  • Keywords: actor analysis; environmental assessment; housing; inhabitant behaviour; life cycle analysis (LCA); low-carbon building; passive house
  • ISBN/ISSN: 0961-3218
  • URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/09613211003654871
  • Abstract:
    Does passive housing really have better environmental performance than conventional housing? Three passive houses and four conventional houses were compared using a life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. The comparison also provided an actor analysis for the building supply chain and building inhabitants. Results are presented for two scenarios: ‘conventional choices’ and ‘green choices’ by the actors. The comparison confirms that passive houses have lower energy use than conventional houses, but when the environmental impact of energy production is taken into consideration, the outcome is less clear. Conventional houses can be equally good environmentally in terms of global warming, acidification, or radioactive waste as typical passive houses with electrical heating depending on the actors' choices. Actor analysis shows that inhabitants' and material producers' electricity choice are very important, while other choices (e.g. green transport) are less important. The findings highlight the importance of environmentally responsible decisions throughout the whole life cycle and the need for appropriate behaviours and actions, along with implications for improved communication.