Sustainability 223 views Sep 17, 2017
LCA ensures a sustainable approach to industrial flooring

In a world of global warming, environmental regulations and our quest for a more sustainable built environment, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is clearly here to stay. A method for evaluating and measuring a product’s environmental impact during their lifecycle from cradle to grave, the LCA of products used in construction enables specifiers to make informed decisions about the comparative environmental impacts as well as the cost and durability of rival products. This is as crucial in the choice of industrial flooring as in any other sector.   

Faced with daunting 2050 greenhouse gas reduction targets, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is increasingly recognised by the construction industry as the most credible and comprehensive method for assessing and comparing the environmental impacts of products over their entire life cycle.

For the specifier, an LCA is a useful tool, enabling them to compare quantitative data on products and systems’ sustainability against an accepted method of measurement. It may mean that two competing products which have similar performance may have very different LCA scores, which will mean a specifier is able to deliver the performance needed but also increase their sustainability credits. This can be particularly beneficial where projects require green certification such as those with BREEAM requirements within their planning permission.

The European standard EN 15804, which governs Environmental Product Declarations, includes eight impact categories which must be covered by LCAs. Of these, three are deemed particularly relevant for flooring:

  • Cumulative Energy Demand (CED) - the total amount of primary energy consumed by a product from renewable and non-renewable resources.
  • Global Warming Potential (GWP) - The product’s potential contribution over its life cycle to climate change, focusing on emissions of greenhouse gases, such as CO2 (also known as ‘carbon footprint’)
  • Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (POCP), or “summer smog” - the formation of reactive chemical compounds, e.g., ozone, by the action of sunlight on volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Sika evaluates products systematically on environmental performance via regular and comprehensive LCAs according to ISO 140040 which describes the principles and framework for LCA, as well as EN 15804. The company undertakes LCAs from both a Cradle to Gate and Cradle to Grave perspective, the former seeing most of the environmental impacts connected to the raw materials used and the latter seeing most impacts in the in-use and end-of-life phases. The impacts in these phases will be highly dependent on the different maintenance and refurbishment requirements over the life-cycle, which are in turn highly dependent on a floor’s intended use.

To make life easier when specifying products, Sikafloor has developed an Eco Tool at its Swiss Research Institute which will quickly and easily provide customers with LCA information on a specific product as well as useful Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) information projected over the life of a product, from Cradle to Grave.

In addition to the LCA of a product, the Eco Tool will provide details to specifiers, architects and building owners of a product’s whole service life, including transport impact, application cost, cleaning costs and other operational costs. The tool also enables comparison between products and against various sustainability and operational criteria, to enable an informed decision to be made.

A new family of hybrid industrial flooring systems, called PurCem® Glossy, harnesses polyurethane cement hybrid technology to also provide strong eco credentials. As well as the essential moisture tolerance, toughness and chemical resistance characteristics needed for industrial sector projects, the flooring’s LCA, undertaken by Sikafloor, shows it has a lower CED over a 15-year lifetime compared with other flooring technologies.  In addition its very low VOC emissions have seen PurCem® Glossy gain AgBB approval in accordance with ISO standards.

Ideal in industrial applications such as food and beverage dry and wet areas, chemical plants and warehouses, the durability of Purcem Glossy is a key part of its sustainability. No refurbishment is needed to prolong its durability over 15 years; plus it is a solvent-free solution that allows application close to on-going production process areas. This means that repair and renovation of existing floors can be undertaken without shutting down the plant or production lines.

Sika Flooring has put a major focus on using less energy and resources when compared with other technologies and systems to help meet green goals as a society.  This means offering a lower Global Warming Potential (carbon footprint) and low or even zero VOC options to deliver health benefits for both public and private sector buildings.