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LCA of Waste Prevention in the Residential Housing Sector in Oregon, USA

Jon Dettling,   Quantis

Within Oregon, the residential construction sector is responsible for a significant portion of the waste generated. While the Oregon DEQ recognizes the importance of waste prevention actions in this sector, it is also recognized that the residential housing sector is an extremely important contributor to other environmental impact areas through its material demands and energy use: a classic case of the potential for shifting burdens. There is therefore a need to ensure that the waste prevention actions that the state government may take are optimized to achieve maximal benefit (and avoid net impacts) in multiple environmental impact categories.

A life cycle assessment has been undertaken to identify the residential construction waste prevention practices that provide the greatest overall environmental benefit. Supporting information for the study has been compiled with the help of the Oregon Home Builders Association (OHBA), Earth Advantage Inc. (EAI, the leading building energy certifier in the state), and the Oregon DEQ in addition to a wide range of subject-matter experts on the building practices. A whole-building LCA framework has been established that integrates detailed data on building materials and energy use (supplied by OHBA and EAI, respectively) with detailed information about the context of residential buildings in Oregon. 

More than two dozen possible waste prevention practices have been identified. In a first screening-level phase, these practices were evaluated to narrow the list to those practices showing the most promise. The best performing practices have then been evaluated in second phase in which the level of detail was greatly enhanced and the study was expanded to consider the practices within the framework of a state-wide residential building stock.

This presentation will discuss the  methodologies used, discuss the findings of both phases and discuss implications for policy making regarding waste prevention in the residential building sector.