Improving the Sustainability Performance of Building Materials: An Approach from Life Cycle Thinking
Doktorsavhandling, 2018

The construction industry is expected to play a vital role in meeting the global societal challenge of ensuring sustainable development. Due to the increasing importance of the embodied impact of materials, this thesis investigates how the sustainability performance of building materials can be improved. The investigation is conducted by exploring the influence and the relation of the following aspects to the materials: the different dimensions of sustainability (environmental, social and economic); technical requirements (functional performance); and the exposed systems (material-building-regions). Sustainable product development is considered an effective approach for improving building materials' sustainability performance. However, there is a need for further investigation to determine how to better implement it. The thesis aims to understand what kind of information can support the sustainable product development of building materials.

To analyze the sustainability performance of building materials, methods with a life cycle perspective are employed. In addition to the life cycle based methods, which reflect the recent developments in the field, investigations are conducted regarding the phase of product development in which existing sustainability assessment methods can be utilized. In the thesis, two types of building materials are analyzed: thermal insulation materials, and green concrete. An investigation at the level of components and buildings is conducted with focus on a case building constructed in Sweden in 2013.

The investigation of how different sustainability assessment methods and indicators can support product development is conducted by considering the phases of product development. It is found that few indicators and methods are able to support the early phase of product development and act mainly as proxy information for setting the goal of the developed material. However, various measures are able to support the later phase of product development, especially the production planning step. Furthermore, in the investigated case materials and building, trade-offs are seen between the dimensions under investigation: the material level, the component/building level, the social and environmental pillars of sustainability. The observed trade-offs highlight the importance and value of the product development phase as an effective measure to handle the occurring compromises. Sustainable product development can offer a platform for more holistic sustainability thinking about and realization of the developed building materials. The thesis emphasizes the value of and the role sustainable product development can play in ensuring the sustainable development of the construction industry.

sustainable product development


Social Life Cycle Assessment

sustainable building

Life cycle assessment

Opponent: Prof. Guido Sonnemann, University of Bordeux, France


Jun Kono

Chalmers, Arkitektur och samhällsbyggnadsteknik, Byggnadsteknologi

Abatement cost of embodied emissions of a residential building in Sweden

Energy and Buildings,; Vol. 158(2018)p. 595-604

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

The trends of hourly carbon emission factors in Germany and investigation on relevant consumption patterns for its application

International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment,; Vol. 22(2017)p. 1493-1501

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Factors for Eco-Efficiency Improvement of Thermal Insulation Materials

Key Engineering Materials,; Vol. 678(2016)p. 1-13

Artikel i vetenskaplig tidskrift

Kono, J., Y. Ostermeyer, H. Wallbaum, Investigation on Regional Conditions and Sustainability Indicators for Sustainable Product Development of Building Materials

Kono, J., Y. Ostermeyer, H. Wallbaum, Trade-off between social and environmental performance of green concrete: case of 6 countries

Sustainability has become one of the major global agenda points for developing society for a better future. The construction industry has a key role to play in achieving every aspect of sustainability: economic, social, and environmental. The challenge in this industry, considering the recent market demand that requires more complex yet cost-efficient buildings, is its conservative nature, which leads some to view construction as a less innovative industry. However, studies have shown that improving their sustainability performance can be economically beneficial for companies. Studies have also suggested the opportunity of improving sustainability performance via the goods produced. In the case of building material manufacturers, the goods produced are building materials, which are the focus of this thesis.

To improve the performance of a product, one phase is considered to be the most important to target, namely the product development phase. This phase is considered to determine 80% of product performance, such as sustainability issues. However, this phase faces issues regarding practical applicability. This thesis investigates how the sustainable product development of building materials can be better supported by investigating 1) life cycle based methods and 2) existing sustainability assessment schemes and methods.

What the thesis highlights is that there are various tools that can support sustainable product development in two different phases. In the early phase, formulating the goal/target of the new product can be effectively supported by information regarding climate conditions and appropriate technical specifics. Various life cycle based methods are expected to be utilized to support the production planning step, the later phase of product development. The research conducted in the thesis reveals the potential trade-off between the pillars of sustainability when approached only via product design. The observed trade-offs highlight the importance and value of the sustainable product development as an effective measure to handle the compromise, where this measure can offer a platform for more holistic thinking about and implementation of the developed building materials.


Building Futures (2010-2018)



Tvärvetenskapliga studier





Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 4431




Opponent: Prof. Guido Sonnemann, University of Bordeux, France

Mer information

Senast uppdaterat