Upcoming LCA regulations for the Swedish building stock?

In our last newsletter, we reported on the developments on LCA requirements for the automotive sector. This time, we report on the Swedish proposal for mandatory LCA on buildings.

Boverket, the Swedish Board of Housing, Building and Planning, has proposed a method and regulations for climate declaration of buildings. The method builds on the life cycle perspective. In line with the initiative , This follows the parliamentary initiative for for Fossil Free Sweden (no net greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere by 2045, and thereafter negative emissions).

The proposed climate declaration is to be applied to almost all buildings. This is different compared to the Dutch system, where an LCA is required in conjunction with a new building permit.

The Swedish building sector accounts for 18% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions (or 11 Mtons CO2eqv/yr). There is currently no law which requires declaration for GHG emissions from a building (incl construction and use). By introducing a climate declaration, The hope is that a climate declaration will raise awareness and knowledge about the climate impact of buildings, which in turn should lead to reduced emissions through changes in planning and design.

To begin, the climate declaration is to be introduced for all new apartment buildings and non-residential buildings. Later on, also single- or two-household houses should have climate declarations. The rules are deemed to be in place as earliest in January 2021.

Technicalities of the life cycle proposal
The climate declaration is to build on a European LCA standard for buildings, the EN 15978 Sustainability of construction works – Assessment of environmental performance of buildings – Calculation method. This means that the climate declaration will follow the breakdown of a building’s life cycle in stages and modules described in that standard. The building elements required in the LCA include structural components, climate screen and interior walls, which cover approximately 80-90 percent of the climate impact of a building.
In short, the standard prescribes how a complete life cycle analysis for a building is be carried out. It is recognised that such practice is complex and therefore rare. Therefore, by limiting calculations to describe climate impact, the expectation is that this could learning in life cycle analysis, before more comprehensive LCAs are required.
The owner of the building is to be responsible for submitting the climate declaration to a responsible authority, tentatively Boverket. This allows for the building of a declaration register and an LCA database for the building sector. The suggestion is that Boverket, together with the Swedish Protection Agency and the Swedish Transport Administration, should be responsible for developing and managing this database on a long-term basis.

Message to the LCA community
It is believed that a climate declaration could lead to reduced CO2 emissions from the construction sector in 5-10 years. This, however, hinges on the need for information efforts. There could also be a need for additional policy instruments to make this work. There is hope that the LCA field can deliver routinized methods. The current estimate is that it takes 120-240 hours to make a climate declaration, and future methods need to go below that, while still delivering quality data to the database.

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