In the construction industry, life cycle assessment (LCA) is the approach taken to measure and optimise the embodied environmental impacts of an activity before, during and after its usable life. ISO and EN standards (ISO21930/21931 and EN15804/15978) have been developed over more than two decades to specifically cater for the construction industry LCA requirements. Based on these standards, the industry has also developed tools to enable calculations to be carried out by non-LCA experts. In the humanitarian sector, the construction context is very different because of a need to urgently provide lifesaving shelter assistance, however, the principles of some these tools could be used to support decision-making.
Humanitarian actors are increasingly looking to quantify their environmental impact – but face an operational context which challenges normal construction sector approaches to measuring both immediate and longitudinal impact. There is limited research available in the sector looking at the immediate and long-term environmental impacts of different shelter and settlement interventions, particularly in relation to shelter use, adaptation and end-of-life.
To better understand the needs and capacities of shelter and settlement practitioners with regards to LCA, BRE Trust, the Environment Community of Practice, and WWF-US conducted a survey aimed at highlighting the level of interest and activity that LCA has seen in the sector. You can see the results here: