Biogenic carbon in buildings: a critical overview of LCA methods

Endrit Hoxha, Alexander Passer*, Marcella Ruschi Mendes Saade, Damien Trigaux, Amie Shuttleworth, Francesco Pittau, Karen Allacker, Guillaume Habert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increasing pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings has motivated specialists to develop low-carbon products incorporating bio-based materials. The impact of these materials is often evaluated through life-cycle assessment (LCA), but there is no clear consensus on how to model the biogenic carbon released or absorbed during their life-cycle. This study investigates and compares existing methods used for biogenic carbon assessment. The most common approaches were identified through an extensive literature review. The possible discrepancies between the results obtained when adopting different methods are made evident through an LCA study of a timber building. Results identified that land-use and land-use-change (LULUC) impacts and carbon-storage credits are not included in most existing methods. In addition, when limiting the system boundary to certain life-cycle stages, methods using the –1/+1 criterion can lead to net negative results for the global warming (GW) score, failing to provide accurate data to inform decision-making. Deviation between the results obtained from different methods was 16% at the building scale and between 35% and 200% at the component scale. Of all the methods studied, the dynamic approach of evaluating biogenic carbon uptake is the most robust and transparent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)504-524
Number of pages21
JournalBuildings and Cities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • bio-based materials
  • biogenic carbon
  • buildings
  • dynamic life-cycle assessment
  • environmental product declaration
  • epd
  • lca
  • life-cycle assessment
  • pef
  • product environmental footprint

Fields of Expertise

  • Sustainable Systems


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