A Life Cycle Environmental Impact Comparison of 1970s & R2000 House Designs

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Courtesy of Athena Sustainable Materials Institute

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In the winter of 2002, the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute undertook a benchmarking study for Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)1 comparing the environmental performance of various single-family home designs as typically built in Canada from the 1970s through to the present. This article presents results that show the strides made from the typical practice of the 1970s to the modern home built to R2000 standards.

Results of this study make it clear that both vintages of homes embody significant environmental effects; R2000 homes, however, display greatly improved operating energy performance through their life cycle. Although achieving this improvement requires some additional materials (insulation, for example), and as a result incurs higher embodied effects, these increased effects are modest compared to the life cycle gains of R2000 homes.

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