BP LCI FAQS

Frequently asked questions

What is a Life Cycle Inventory?

A Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) is a compilation and quantification of the inputs and outputs, of a material, product or service measured within a defined physical boundary and over a defined time period over a part or the whole of the material/product/service life cycle.  (Definition derived from that provided by ISO 14040:2006).  The full details and interpretation for the BP LCI project are contained in the Methodology Guidelines.

The US LCI Roadmap (2009) summarized the role of LCI as follows:“The primary goal of the U.S. LCI Database project is to provide publicly available, high-quality U.S.-based LCI data that are comprehensive, transparent, and critically reviewed. Providing a database that has transparent, quality-assured data is essential for supporting quality LCA activity and for building credibility and viability.

What is the Building Products Life Cycle Inventory (BP LCI)?

The BP LCI provides LCI results for over 100 products in a publicly accessible free access database.  The data comprises the generic average inputs and outputs, aggregated from Australian manufacturers for each product.  The average for the category is normally the volume weighted average for all manufacturers, but in some cases a combination of horizontal averaged and vertically averaged data is provided where this is more representative or where there is a need to protect commercially sensitive information from a single producer. The scope adopted is normally “Gate to Gate” or “Gate to Major Distribution hub” as appropriate to each product sector.  The scope and details of aggregation and averaging of data is documented and justified. The generic building product categories addressed in the BP LCI are manufactured by the following industries:

  • Concrete 
  • Concrete Blocks
  • Concrete and Terracotta Roof Tiles
  • Bricks
  • Gypsum Board 
  • Steel & Steel Reinforcing
  • Timber and Timber Products
  • Windows & Glass
  • Insulation materials 

BP LCI includes the consensus agreed nationally consistent, “level playing field” methodology that underpins the development of this database. Therefore the BP LCI is a significant achievement in its own right, but further, it enables the Australian building industry to have scientifically reliable data as the basis for accurate measures of the environmental impacts of the industry. 

Importantly the BP LCI has been developed by a collaboration of industry, government and academia so as to ensure that the methodology is transparent, scientifically reliable and consistent with international standards for environmental assessment. 

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Why is there a need for a “Level Playing Field” in building products environmental assessment?

For the purpose of BP LCI a “Level Playing Field” implies that the methods and data that all building industry stakeholders use in conducting Life Cycle Assessment is consistent, scientifically robust and compliant with international standards so that the results obtained are comparable and consistent across all product sectors and up and down supply chains. 

Traditionally the methodologies adopted in different sectors have been different, each playing to their strengths, but resulting in data that could not be used to reach robust conclusions when comparing products from different sectors.

In the absence of BP LCI, the building industry and LCA practitioners have relied on non-Australian data sources that were not representative of Australian conditions and used methods that were usually not consistent across sectors.

BP LCI establishes methods and provides data that all industry stakeholders can rely on when conducting the LCA of products and buildings. LCA is fundamental to a number of important building industry functions including:

  • Product development for better environmental outcomes
  • Environmental Impact reporting such as Environmental Product Declarations and Ecolabelling
  • Policy development by both industry and government such as Greenhouse Gases reporting.
  • Scope III carbon accounting for the buildings sector
  • The development of life cycle based credits in environmental rating systems

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What are the Life Cycle Assessment methods recommended in the BP LCI?

Life Cycle Assessment has been the subject of considerable development over the past twenty years with the direct involvement of leading global and regional authorities such as the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the European Environmental Agency, US Environmental Protection Agency and many industry and non-government organisations culminating in the ISO14040/4 standards.

In 1998, UK BRE completed a 10 year long project attempting to reach consensus on the UK Environmental Profiles methodology amongst the UK’s 23 material and product sectors.  The final report could not be a consensus report and was instead a majority report.  The US Department of Energy sponsored a project in 2001/2 to establish a consistent methodology for US National Life Cycle Inventory database.  This project was completed but with remaining questions over the methodology and its consistent application across all sectors.  The US National Life Cycle Inventory has failed to gain significant traction with stakeholders.  In 2006 in Australia, CSIRO partnered with ALCAS to establish the AusLCI Project, modelled on the US National Life Cycle Inventory.

To remain compatible with AusLCI and ISO14040/4, but to also meet the needs of the building products sector, the BP LCI methodology was adapted from the May 2008  AusLCI Guidelines Committee Draft – Guidelines for Data Development for an Australian Life Cycle Inventory Database.  The adaptations reflect the consensus from the Technical Working Group meetings of the BPIC contributing member associations on Life Cycle Inventory/Life Cycle Assessment (LCI/LCA) methodology conducted through January 2008 to March 2010.  The BPIC methodology remained consistent with the AusLCI guidelines but then exceeded them by reaching conclusions on methodology for allocation to wastes and recycled materials.

The full methodology includes the Protocol which provides guidance on using the BP LCI data in application in LCA studies for buildings, assemblies and building products placing emphasis on only using the data for functionally equivalent comparisons.  A consistent approach to impact assessment was also provided addressing Classification & Characterisation and Normalisation.  This work was based on reviews of best practice methods adopted internationally, but with a view to their relevance and practical application in Australia.  

Finally, BP LCI provides a method and data from workshops held in 11 cities around Australia to determine how different Australian stakeholders subjectively judge the relative importance of different environmental impact categories.  The final weighting of environmental impact categories is an unavoidable step in multi-attribute LCA.  The workshop method used had proved effective and meaningful in prior studies in UK, US and NZ and produced consistent results for use in Australia. 

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How will the BP LCI be used?

The BP LCI has a wide range of potential uses. BP LCI provides a consistent set of building product data for many building and construction related LCA purposes.. LCA is at the core of life cycle management principles being incorporated by government and business. Areas that are expected to see expanded use of LCA include government policymaking, EPDs, ecolabelling, environmental performance benchmarking, carbon accounting for trading and offsets, energy consumption analysis. LCA methodology is rapidly evolving to incorporate new methods and areas of analysis. LCI databases need to grow and evolve to support and maintain compatibility with new methods and tools.”

The specific uses we anticipate in Australia include:

  1. Internal use by building product manufacturers to identify opportunities for improved product design, improved production processes and improved supply chain management to reduce the environmental impacts (and costs of production) of their products. The development of LCA based, BIM compatible building design and operational tools that improve the tradeoffs in materials and operational performance of buildings.
  2. The development and improvement in ecolabelling initiatives and EPDs to better represent the true environmental impacts of building products
  3. Improved environmental reporting by manufacturers of building products through EPD (Type III) and ecolabelling (Type I) and through annual sustainability reports.
  4. Improved carbon accounting for products and processes, mitigation and offsets.
  5. Policy development by government and industry
  6. Adoption by other building products industries and other industrial sectors in collaboration with ALCAS. 

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What is the BP LCI Protocol?

One of the key concerns of BPIC members throughout the development of BP LCI was to encourage and ensure legitimate, appropriate and representative uses of the BP LCI data.  To this end, the BP LCI Protocol specifies the terms and conditions for use of the BP LCI data.  

The nature of environmental assessment is such that environmental claims can easily, and usually unintentionally, misrepresent the environmental credentials of a product or a building. The protocol aims to protect against such misuse by identifying the factors that should be considered for a legitimate comparison of functionally equivalent buildings, assemblies, products or materials.  To most users the Protocol should provide a useful checklist of good practice rather than a burden of compliance.

What products have been included in the BP LCI?

The product categories included in the LCI are as follows:

BPIC Member Association

Products Included

Concrete Masonry Association of Australia

Dense Standard Brick

Light Weight Double High Brick

Standard Blocks

Coloured Architectural Split and Polished blocks

Fire Rated Blocks

Standard Core Filled Retaining Wall Blocks

Light Segmental Wall Blocks

Heavy Segmental Wall Block

Pavers

Interlocking Pavers

Roofing Tile Association of Australia

Concrete Tiles

Terracotta Tiles

Australian Steel Institute

Long: Angles, Flats, Rounds, Parallel Flange Channels, Tapered Flange Beams, Universal Beams and Columns, Stress Relieved Concrete Strand, Tubeline, GalTube, Welded Beams and Columns

Flat: Plate, Hot Rolled Strip, Galvanised Strip, Zinc Aluminum Coated Strip, Pre-painted Strip, Hot Rolled Coil, Cold Rolled Coil

Flat Coated: Galvanised Coil and Sheet, Zinc Aluminium Coated Coil and Sheet, Pre Painted Galvanised Coil and Sheet, Prepainted Zinc Aluminium Coated Coil and Sheet

Gypsum Board Manufacturers of Australia

Plasterboard

Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia

Mortar

Render

Concrete – Residential

Concrete – Commercial

Concrete – Engineering Construction

Insulation Manufacturers Association of Australia

Glasswool & Rockwool

Polyester

Cellulose Fibre

Sheep Wool

Foams

Reflective Foil Laminate

Acoustic & Fire Rated Insulation

Australian Windows Association

Combinations of

Frame: Timber, Aluminium, UPVC, Composites, Fiberglass/Steel

Finishes: Stains, Powder Coating, Anodising,

Glazing: Monolithic, IGU, Annealed, Toughened, Laminated, Coated

Hardware: Seals & Gaskets, Sealants, Fixings, Materials, Packaging

Steel Reinforcement Institute of Australia

Steel reinforcement for concrete: steel reinforcing bar & steel; reinforcing mesh

Think Brick

Solid

Extruded in various sizes

Pavers in various sizes

 Timber Development Association

 Logs: softwood & hardwood

Sawn timber

Plywood: Interior, Exterior, Formply, Flooring, Structural

LVL (3 thicknesses)

Particleboard: raw and decorated

MDF: raw and decorated

Glulam

Engineered I-Beams

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 What does the LCI data represent?

The data reported in the BP LCI for each product category represents the inventory of the generic product categories list above for the defined scope – usually “gate to gate” or “gate to major distribution hub”.

The BP LCI provides the methodology recommended (and embedded data) for undertaking an impact assessment in two reports entitled “A Life Cycle Impact Assessment Method” - “Part 1 Classification and Characterisation” and “Part 2: Normalisation”  

These present a “Mid-Point” impact assessment approach. This attached graphic, Schematic overview of Midpoint Impact Categories and Damage Categories is a schematic overview of recommended LCIA midpoint environmental impact categories and proposed connection to endpoint damage categories (for ISO 14044 compliance). Some impact categories are aggregated after characterisation e.g. the abiotic resource depletion category includes mineral and fossil fuel depletion and the eco-toxicity category includes freshwater, marine and terrestrial toxicity. Note that the impact categories in red cannot yet be included in the LCIA phase.

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What is the future of the BP LCI?

The BP LCI is a database that provides a significant amount of information on Australian building products and materials. However, the database is not exhaustive and should be complemented with relevant data on other materials and actions to undertake a full LCA. 

It is hoped that the BP LCI will develop and evolve over the coming years by:

  • being used by LCA practitioners,
  • being incorporated into software tools for conducting LCA and Building design, and
  • being used for environmental assessment by the operators of third party environmental accreditation schemes. 

We would also expect to see more product categories added to the BP LCI database to expand its relevance to the industry.

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