WG2 Sustainability and Life Cycle Analysis of structural skins

Both in the manufacturing and construction sector it is a high priority to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Research activities focus on novel structural skins in which structural membranes and advanced textiles are the pivotal elements of the eco-innovation processes. Several aspects will be investigated, such as the embodied energy, the recycling of membrane materials, the lifetime of temporary and removable buildings, their easy removal after their useful life and their end of life treatment.

Doing more with less – Minimal structures in nature only use the raw material needed in relation to the duration foreseen for the system. The design and study of new minimal structural components plays a key role in the definition of lightweight constructions as well as in the qualification of the built environment.

Time-based structures – The durability of membranes and foils employed to build up structural skins is analysed considering time as a key function in all the decision making processes in design.
Closing the loop – New technology seeks to integrate polymeric waste in the production cycle of new structural materials (recycling or upcycling) and to find a new life for old, dismantled membrane structures (reuse or recycling). The analysis of the recycle/reuse scenarios is part of the Life Cycle design approach mentioned below.

Life Cycle design – The Life Cycle Analysis methodology plays a fundamental role to obtain more sustainable procedures in design, building and renovation. Research activities address the embodied energy of materials and focus on the final performance properties. The next step is to develop new multi-layered building components in which each part has well-known environmental and performing characteristics. Designers and suppliers need to know the environmental profile of a product, together with the thermal, acoustic and resistance performance, as a choice indicator at the design phase. The following LCA topics are considered:

  • Development/adaptation of the Product Category Rules, in order to understand the potential and limits of an optimal Environmental Product Declaration (An EPD is a standardized tool to communicate the environmental performance of a product or system, worldwide applicable);
  • Data collection for the production of membranes and foils;
  • Provision and development of the upstream data (supply chain data);
  • Data collection for the End-of-Life Scenarios;
  • Techniques for efficient and cost effective assembly and disassembly operations;
  • Modelling and calculation of the LCA results, documentation of the LCA and development of the EPD of building systems for which the quantities of textiles/foils (kg/m2) and structure (kg/m2) will be considered;
  • Assessment of economically and environmentally acceptable footprints.

The SRC starts from a network of LCA researchers in the field of lightweight materials, in order to collect results concerning the effectiveness of materials and structures. This approach will help to clarify which kind of EPD is needed for the suppliers and to provide and support possible improvements in the production chain.