GLRPPR Sector Resource: Analysis of the Life Cycle Impacts and Potential for Avoided Impacts Associated with Single-Family Homes
Analysis of the Life Cycle Impacts and Potential for Avoided Impacts Associated with Single-Family Homes
The purpose of this study was to identify strategic opportunities for reducing or avoiding life cycle impacts associated with single-family homes. It is documented that the dominant contributor to most environmental impacts of single-family homes across a life cycle is energy use. Energy efficiency has long been a topic of research and an area of focus when identifying opportunities for reducing the impacts of single-family homes. However, materials also matter.
The first objective for this study was to quantify the environmental impacts embodied in materials, products and services consumed during the life cycle of single-family homes, and rank-order these inputs according to the magnitude of their embodied impacts. Several of the top-ranked materials and products were analyzed to pinpoint the specific supply-chain processes where their most significant impacts in the context of single-family homes were occurring. In addition to analyzing the upstream processes for a select group of top-ranking materials and products, EPA analyzed the impacts of all of the supply-chain processes needed to deliver and operate new single-family homes in the U.S.
The second objective for this study was to propose example changes and reveal the potential for reducing impacts across diverse environmental impact categories if these changes were to be incorporated on a national scale. Proposed changes encompassed optimizing the end-use energy efficiency of homes as well as increasing recycling and reuse of select building materials.
The third objective for the study was to state environmental justice and affordable housing issues as they pertained to the results of the analysis. Increasing the recycling and reuse of building materials may reduce the pollution burdens that disadvantaged households face due to their proximity to polluting facilities. This environmental strategy also helps reduce housing costs, which in turn, should increase low-income households' access to sustainable, green housing. The environmental justice discussion also relayed potential human health and worker safety considerations involved with providing green homes at a lower cost.
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