Integrated life cycle assessment and thermodynamic simulation of a public building's envelope renovation: Conventional vs. Passivhaus proposal

Jorge Sierra-Pérez, Beatriz Rodríguez-Soria, Jesús Boschmonart-Rives, Xavier Gabarrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier Ltd The need to improve the energy efficiency of buildings has introduced the concept of nearly zero-energy buildings into European energy policies. Moreover, a percentage of the building stock will have to be renovated annually to attain high energy performance. Conventional passive interventions in buildings are focused on increasing the insulation of the building envelope to increase its energy efficiency during the operating phase. Often, however, intervention practices imply the incorporation of embodied energy into the building materials and increase the associated environmental impacts. This paper presents and evaluates a comparison of two different proposals for a real-world building renovation. The first proposal was a conventional project for energy renovation, while the second was a low-energy building proposal (following the Passivhaus standard). This study analysed the proposals using an integrated life cycle and thermal dynamic simulation assessment to identify the adequacy of each renovation alternative regarding the post-renovation energy performance of the building, including an evaluation of the introduction of a renewable insulation material into the low-energy building proposal, specifically a specific cork solution. The most significant conclusion was the convenience of the renovation, achieving energy savings of 60% and 80% for the conventional and Passivhaus renovations (ENERPHIT), respectively. The former supposed less embodied energy and environmental impacts but also generated less energy savings. The latter increased the embodied impacts in the building, mainly for the large amount of insulation material. The environmental implications of both proposals can be compensated for within a reasonable period of time, over 2 years in the majority of alternatives and impact categories. However, the ENERPHIT project was 30% better than the conventional proposal when the total lifespan of the building was considered. The introduction of cork did not fit the requirements for competing with the common non-renewable insulation materials because it did not imply better environmental performance in buildings, but cork insulation solutions currently present ample room for improvement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1510-1521
JournalApplied Energy
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2018


  • Cork
  • Embodied energy
  • Insulation materials
  • Operating energy
  • Zero-energy building

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