CAPEM LCA Life Cycle Analysis G#478 N#484

By February 19, 2014February 27th, 2019Collaboration, GBE EPD, Services

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CAPEM LCA Life Cycle Analysis

CAP’EM LCA Life Cycle Analysis

CAP’EM LCA is a major part of the CAP’EM EPD services offered mainly to manufacturers and occasionally to suppliers.

CAP’EM LCA is a thorough analysis of the environmental impacts of manufacturing materials, products, systems or even of providing a service.

It considers:

  • all of the inputs:
    • resources, materials, products, fuel, energy, heat, chemicals, gasses, water;
  • Processes:
    • growing or extraction, transport at all stages, processes, manufacturing, packaging,
  • Outputs:
    • Goods, faulty goods, co-products, by-products, waste, emissions to land, air and water

It includes:

  • a questionnaire to thoroughly understand the processes
  • a flow diagram showing inputs, processes, outputs
  • a factory visit to inspect goods yards, processes and confirm flow diagram is correct
  • scrutiny of inventories and accounts
  • Calculations using dedicated software
  • Recording results
These results can be used in following tasks:
CAP’EM IMPACTS used for two important activities:

CAP’EM MARGINAL ANALYSIS to understand the relative impact of all the individual ingredients or parts e.g. products, packaging, inputs, outputs, plastics, chemicals,

CAP’EM INDIVIDUAL IMPACTS Calculation and disclosure of individual impacts used in literature and calculations e.g. Embodied Carbon, Global Warming Potential, Sequestered Carbon

CAP’EM PRODUCT IMPROVEMENT Using Marginal Analysis GBE assist the manufacturer to improve the product by minimising quantities of high impact ingredients or packaging and replacing them with lower impact materials or energy sources.

CAP’EM DETOX uses a number of existing databases with detailed information on individual materials and chemicals to identify the worst offenders and identify other materials to consider for their replacements.

The manufacturer must then experiment with the alternatives to find the optimum performance with lower impacts.

This process can help in the REACH regulation drive to remove unhealthy chemicals from manufacturing.


LCA are based on hard and fast facts based on actual quantities reciep percentages and known material impacts, usually from ‘cradle’ (excavation from earth, extraction from plantations, etc.) to factory gate after manufacture.

EPD add onto the LCA from Factory Gate to Grave (including: construction, in use phase and end of life, landfill, recovery of energy (combustion) or nutrients (composting)) all of which is outside the realms of facts since they all occur in the future and based on current normal or best practice and some speculation.


GBE use PASS to screen out the materials that have the highest environmental impacts and more importantly to identify the materials that have least impact and have a substantial contribution to make in use.

GBE PASS is used to select the Products that are then promoted in GBE PRODUCT PAGES

Results of CAP’EM LCA and CAP’EM EPD can be recorded in GBE PRODUCT DATA SHEET schedules and GBE ROBUST SPECIFICATION clauses.

All of these results can be recorded in BIM-ready GBE CAD files promoted from GBE PRODUCT PAGES

LCA Life Cycle Analysis

LCA scores tell you how high or low their impacts are which we can interpret as how good or bad something is, the higher the scores the worse the impacts are, (in GBE Jargon, how ‘Violet’ it is) with LCA you can compare the LCAs of two things, (to find the most and least Violet) but only if they are from an exactly identical LCA processes.  Most current LCA processes are different but the methods and the resulting LCA scores from them will get closer in the future, but remain different for some time yet. The LCA processes usually consist of quantifying the impact of all making and processing of the ingredients and the manufacturing processes, packaging, waste and emissions.  LCA is a detailed process that is not cheap £7,000-£60,000 depending on the product type.

LCA does not address indoor air quality and EPD fails to address toxicity of content, so it begs the question how LCA can be regarded as a measure of ‘Greenness’.

BRE Green Guide to Specification

In the UK, the official ‘Greenness’ selection process comes in the form of BRE Green Guide to Specification which is based on LCA, not LCA of products but LCA based on the average output of a manufacturing sector, making conventional materials/products and then aggregated into elemental assemblies and rated F (bad) to A and A+ (good) rather like building EPC Energy Performance Certificates.  Individual PVC window manufacturers using virgin PVC (few use recycled) would get no better than a C rating if assessed individually; but as an industry sector generic LCA rating BRE take into account waste PVC is recycled into many products including garden gnomes therefore PVC windows are A+ rated.  Most architects would not specify PVC as an unsound environmental material choice, unreliable for ironmongery attachment, preferring more robust and competent products like aluminium and timber composite windows which get a worse C rating.

In the UK, with Design and Build procurement we are lead to believe the constructor is also a capable designer and specifier and we are encouraged or obliged by CPD (Construction Products Directive) and UK authorities to trust them to use their expertise to do their job; but they are also in charge of the costs and these two priorities are potentially in conflict.  Design and Build is usually adopted to let the contractor reduce costs, in reality they reduce costs to increase profit margins at the expense of the quality of the materials, product choices and consequently the resulting building.  Strong specification and strong contract administration is needed to avoid the worst excesses of specification reduction and substitution or value engineering (posh for cost cutting) that will occur. BRE Green Guide to Specification tells the D&B Specifier that PVC windows are A+ rated; they will choose the best LCA and the lowest price ignoring all other performance criteria and result in a high risk short-life window which in the opinion of most, if not all, greenies is the worse environmental choice.

© GBE NGS ASWS BrianMurphy
aka BrianSpecMan
11th December 2012 – 7th July 2013

CAP’EM LCA Life Cycle Analysis
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© GBE NGS ASWS BrianMurphy
aka BrianSpecMan
4th March 2013 – 17th April 2016

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