NCC compares life cycle data

The National Composites Centre (NCC) in the UK has compiled carbon footprint data covering composite software and tools in the construction industry.

According to the center, the data found that the carbon footprint of a glass fiber composite output from one tool could be almost double for the same assessment used in a different tool. “[W] hen applied in a decision-making process in early design stages, these diverse values can force a different outcome depending on the tool used,” a press release added.

The data compared a glass fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) composite component to galvanised steel with a requirement to select the design with the lowest carbon footprint. In this case, the value from one life cycle assessment (LCA) tool indicates a lower carbon footprint than another LCA tool 2 would indicate a higher carbon footprint. “The NCC [undertook] a data quality assessment to determine applicability of data values, and in this case found that the value from ‘LCA tool 1’ to be more valid,” it said.

The software and tools used to calculate LCAs range from specific software with comprehensive life cycle inventory databases, through to tools specific to the construction sector or other applications that use composite materials, the NCC added.

“It is crucial for users of LCA software to understand the background data referenced by these tools, in order for them to have confidence in their decisions driven by the output of assessments, and to mitigate business risk,” said Ffion Martin, engineering capability lead for sustainability.

“[It] is vital that widely-used carbon databases have up-to-date and accurate data for all materials to ensure valid and appropriate decision-making,” said Malcolm Forsyth, sustainability manager at trade association Composites UK.