Work is now underway to perform detailed life cycle assessment of the social, economic and environmental benefits of the planned REHAP products. This work will examine every step of the processes involved in taking the raw bio-material to a green product to be used by the construction industry. Giorgio Urbano of Italian firm D’Appolonia is leading this work and here explains progress being made at the start of the project.

Some of the first activities in the REHAP project to start producing concrete results are those related to assessing the energy, technological and economical impacts of the materials being developed for the final bio-products, all along their life cycle from raw material to final product. This vital work is being done in Work Package 6, which has defined some clear objectives:

  • To define a set of key performance indicators (KPI) for the environmental, social and economic impact evaluation of the REHAP processes.
  • To carry out market analysis of competitive materials and products on the market • To manage the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Social Life Cycle Assessment for the different technologies
  • To perform integrated environmental, economic and social assessment of the REHAP bio-based building panel
  • To lead resource efficiency studies for further processes optimisation

This work is being led by Giorgio Urbano of D’Appolonia, which will specifically evaluate the environmental, economic and social impacts of Rehap bio-based processes through Life Cycle Assessment (E-LCA), Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LLCA) and Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA).

These assessments will be further used as a starting point to evaluate the environmental, economic and social impacts of the developed bio-based building panels. The work will also involve comparing the REHAP panels to conventional non-renewable building panels available on the market, which offer similar performance credentials. REHAP expects that the environmental and cost benefits of its panels will then form the basis of a commercial business plan that will enable their penetration into the market as a viable green building solution.

Later on in the project, a full market analysis will also be performed to ensure that the pricing for the REHAP panels is competitive compared to the fossilbased alternatives and other bio-based alternatives already on the market.

“This work has now started in the project,” says Giorgio Urbano. “We need to develop a product that has positive economic, environmental and social impact. Every partner in the project is providing a piece of this bigger picture, so we need to start now and collect all these inputs and data to make sure that we build the right final product. By analysing the impact of each part of the process, we will be able to do that.

“So, in order to have an accurate assessment of the total impact of the final product, we need to have all the inventory data, starting with the raw material and passing through the entire processes including the final production of the panels,” he explains further.

“For example, in the green cement, we need a plasticizer that is made with some bio-based materials, but we have to produce these biobased materials in the first place. To produce these, we need lignin and to have this lignin we need straw – the base material that starts the whole thing off and where we start our LCA.”

At this stage of the project, the work being done by D’Appolonia is in the scoping phase, where the team is defining the pathways for the materials and processes towards the final product and how these interact as well as the interdependencies of the various aspects of the work within the project by other partners.

“Part of the task ahead, therefore, is to build a map indicating where the interactions between data, partners, processes and materials lie. We have now built this map,” explains Urbano.

“We started with the project descriptions, describing the activities of each partner and collecting the data provided from them for each process step for the four products being developed. We started with simplified blocks for a diagram, in which material flows were included. Then we identified the responsible partner for each of the project stages and looked at how they would be providing the related data, to assess the environmental, economic and social impact of the target processes.

“We have also started to define the table of contents related to the market analysis; what could be foreseen for month 18, for example and so, we have provided this structure, where each responsible partner will be in charge of providing some market data about a competitive product in order to evaluate the market potential for each of the intermediate products.”

With the framework in place, the next stage is to start collecting the data, split into blocks of time within the project, from the first phase, which is the research phase, approaching the finish and development and the second phase which is the processing, scaling up and demonstration.

“We will perform an intermediate as well as a final environmental and economic impact study based on the scaling up approaches; trying to understand what could be the environmental impact in a large-scale production; even if this large-scale production is not in operation, but just on paper,” explains Urbano.

“The only thing that we are missing in the description of the activities so far is the selfsufficiency studies that are also being developed in WP6; so, in parallel with the LCA, the LCC and social lexical analysis, we are going to develop around four resource efficiency audits of the final outcomes.

“Up to now, the mapping and categorising of all the processes is going to be used for both actions. The foreseen action will be to categorise a benchmark for the different processes and to provide the studies and suggested efficiency measures.

“The project is seeking to provide an environmental benefit in the processes and products being developed in terms of a lower use of fossil-based resources,” concludes Urbano. “The target is set on 80-100 per cent less fossilbased resources used and shorter emission and energy consumption up to 30 per cent.

“So, while we are expecting the project to provide these environmental and economic benefits we don’t have enough data at the moment to make these claims. That is what we hope to provide.”