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Proceedings of the International Symposium on


Sustainable Systems and Technologies, v2 (2014)


Life Cycle Assessment and Design of Cementitious Building Faade
Elements


Marienne Costa

Universidade Federal do Paran, Brazil, mariennemaron@gmail.com
Anna Kovaleva Stanford University, Kovaleva_Anna@gsb.stanford.edu
Axel Guyon Stanford University, axguyon@stanford.edu
Gerrit de Moor Stanford University, gerritdm@stanford.edu
Moiz Kapadia Stanford University, mkapadia@stanford.edu
Michael Lepech Stanford University, mlepech@stanford.edu

Abstract. Buildings are the largest consumer of energy and greatest contributor to climate
change in the United Statesconsuming approximately half of energy produced and
contributing close to half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Through computational modeling of
millions of theoretical building designs, the choice of cladding material has been shown to hold
great potential for reduction of a buildings embodied energy and emissions. This study looks to
better inform building architects and engineers when making decisions regarding cladding
selection, and introduce advanced material deterioration models into the life cycle assessment
of building faade elements. Precast concrete is extensively used for non-structural architectural
faades for its durability, speed of enclosure, and structural and aesthetic flexibility. Concrete
panels usually require only minimum steel reinforcement due to small mechanical loads. To
limit crack growth and resist thermal stresses, steel welded wire fabric (WWF) has
conventionally been the reinforcement of choice. Recently, polymer fiber reinforcement has
emerged as an effective alternative to reduce long term cracking, while providing increased
impact, shatter, and abrasion resistance. While numerous studies have examined the
advantages of concrete faade panels, comparative life cycle assessments (LCAs) of faade
panels with WWF and fiber reinforcement have not been conducted. This paper contributes to a
better understanding of panel environmental impacts by conducting an LCA of a WWF
reinforced concrete faade panel reinforced with various polymeric fiber alternatives sourced
from North America, Brazil, and China. One result of the study was identification of the durability
of concrete faade panels as an important modeling factor. As such, a time dependent service-
life model for the durability of each panel based on fiber properties, crack width, transport, and
corrosion was implemented. The use of this model led to quantified consideration of improved
material properties in reducing the life cycle impact of faade panels.

Proceedings of the International Symposium on Sustainable Systems and Technologies (ISSN 2329-9169) is
published annually by the Sustainable Conoscente Network. Melissa Bilec and Jun-Ki Choi, co-editors.
ISSSTNetwork@gmail.com.

Copyright 2014 by Marienne Costa

, Anna Kovaleva, Axel Guyon, Gerrit de Moor, Moiz Kapadia, Michael Lepech
Licensed under CC-BY 3.0.

Cite as:
Life Cycle Assessment and Design of Cementitious Building Faade Elements Proc. ISSST, Marienne Costa

, Anna
Kovaleva, Axel Guyon, Gerrit de Moor, Moiz Kapadia and Michael Lepech. Doi information v2 (2014)
Life Cycle Assessment and Design of Cementitious Building Faade Elements
If applicable, page number will go here after aggregating all papers
Introduction. For more than a half century precast concrete has been used in architectural
faades for its durability, speed of enclosure, and structural and aesthetic flexibility. In the
context of a faade system, the concrete usually does not need large amounts of structural
reinforcement. However, to limit crack width and resistance to stresses caused by effects such
as temperature changes and shrinkage, some reinforcement is needed. Such reinforcement
increases the durability of the faade panel and usually comes in the form of a steel welded wire
fabric (WWF) embedded in the concrete. Fibers have emerged as an appealing addition or
alternative to WWF due to their effect on reduced cracking, and increased impact, shatter, and
abrasion resistance. Originally, asbestos fibers were used, but after their health hazards
became apparent, alternatives emerged under the form of glass, steel, synthetic, and carbon
fibers. Polypropylene (PP) fibers are relatively less expensive than other fibers and available
worldwide. Such fibers can be processed by traditional melt spinning technologies, are
chemically inert, and resistant to degradation in cement paste (MANNELLI, 2010). Low-volume
polypropylene reinforcement has also been shown to be effective in reducing cracking tendency
in the plastic stage of concrete hydration (SANJUN et al., 1997).

As fiber reinforced concrete materials are increasingly accepted into the precast faade panel
industry, there are questions surrounding the use of fossil fuel derived polymer fibers for
reinforcement. Given that cement production is currently one of the largest global emitters of
greenhouse gases (LEPECH et al., 2013), the addition of polymeric fibers may increase the
impacts of these architectural elements. Thus, the objective of this work is to perform a life cycle
assessment (LCA) of a precast concrete faade panel reinforced with WWF and polymer fibers.
LCA is a method to study the environmental aspects and potential impacts of a product
throughout its life from raw material acquisition through production, use and disposal (ISO,
1997). The life cycle model in this study was constructed to compare the environmental impacts
of a concrete facade panel reinforced with WWF and PP fibers produced in three different
countries; the United States, Brazil and China.

The life cycle impacts of reinforced concrete materials and structures, such as faade panels,
have been shown to be highly dependent on the length of their service life (LEPECH et al.,
2013). This is taken into consideration within LCA as the number of replacements needed
throughout the building lifetime. As such, the durability of the panels is an important modeling
challenge within LCA. The foremost phenomenon governing the durability of concrete panels is
cracking and subsequent corrosion (TORRES-ACOSTA et al., 2006). Cracks can occur during
any stage of the life of the concrete, for instance, due to volume changes which occur as a
newly cast concrete is exposed to drying conditions that result in tensile stress and cracking at
early age. These volume changes, or plastic shrinkage, occurs in the first few hours after
casting and is affected by environmental conditions (i.e., temperature, air moisture, wind
conditions). Control of cracking requires special attention in the design of concrete structures to
adequately protect against corrosion of steel (SANJUN et al., 1997). Thus, in the case of the
panels in this study, a reduction of service-life is considered based on the corrosion of the steel
WWF. Premature deterioration and end-of-life caused by reinforcement corrosion has been
increasingly reported in structures. In general, this corrosion is caused by the destructive attack
of chloride ions, by carbonation of the concrete cover, or the combination of both of these
phenomena (TORRES-ACOSTA et al., 2006). Thus, deterioration caused by transport of
chloride ions and deterioration of steel WWF is explicitly considered in this LCA study.

Recognizing that the durability modeling of fiber and steel reinforced concrete faade panels
has yet to be explicitly considered within LCA, this research aims to quantify the relative life
cycle environmental impacts of a WWF reinforced concrete faade panel that incorporates crack
control fibers sourced from the United States, Brazil, and China. A time dependent service-life
M.Costa et al.
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model was implemented to predict the durability of each panel considering the inevitable
occurrence of cracks and their influence on corrosion of steel within the panels. One result of
the modeling performed was identification of the durability of concrete faade panels as an
important modeling factor when performing LCA of these faade panel systems.
Panel description. The functional unit, a 1m x 1m x 0.16m concrete faade panel reinforced
with polymer fiber and steel welded wire fabric, was designed to meet the building regulations of
the city of San Francisco, CA over a 30 service-life. Using the minimum steel reinforcement
provisions provided by the concrete building code it was calculated that the reinforcement for
the panel should have an area of 320mm
2
in each direction over the entire panel [ACI, 2008].
Based on this required area of steel reinforcement and minimum spacing requirements within
the building code, 6mm diameter wire spaced on a 0.1m x 0.1m mesh was chosen. The welded
wire fabric was positioned in the middle of the panel. Therefore, the concrete cover that protects
the steel has a thickness of 77mm. A detail of the panel is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1: Dimension details of the WWF reinforced concrete faade panels.

A list of materials required for production of 1 panel was constructed (Table 1). With this list, the
impacts associated with producing each panel could be calculated using SimaPro and the
underlying EcoInventy life cycle inventory dataset.

Table 1: Summary of the required materials and specifications for a single 1m x 1m faade panel.

Ingredient Specifications Quantity needed for 160 mm
thick WWF panel (kg)
Concrete Type I 368
Water - 14.7
Cement Type III 55.2
Sand - 121.4
Gravel - 176.6
WWF St13 I 5.12
PP Fiber 0.107

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of Panel. A crade-to-gate life cycle assessment model of three
panels was constructed using SimaPro modeling software and the EcoInvent database. The
material components for concrete and steel are shown in Table 1. The model used for
polypropylene (PP) fibers (Brazilian, Chinese and American), including extrusion of the PP resin
and liquid packaging, was inspired by a previous study performed by Mannelli (2010). The
Life Cycle Assessment and Design of Cementitious Building Faade Elements
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model created by Mannelli, which considered only PP fibers produced in Europe, was adapted
to consider differences in production between the fibers taking into account country-specific
sources of electricity and energy. The installation of the panels was not included within the LCA
because the installation process of each of the three types of panels is identical. Table 2 shows
the impacts of producing each of the three facade panels. The impact assessment method
chosen for this work was Eco-indicator 95 V2.05 / Europe. As shown, while the three panels
use polypropylene fibers produced in different countries, the overall impact of each of the panels
is very similar.

Table 2: Environmental impacts from a single WWF panel with fibers reinforcement (Method: Eco-indicator 95
V2.05/Europe)

WWC reinforced concrete panels with fibers
Impact category Unit Chinese PP Fiber American PP Fiber Brazilian PP Fiber
Greenhouse kg CO2 eq 31,2 30,8 30,3
Ozone layer kg CFC11 eq 9,60E-07 9,72E-07 9,60E-07
Acidification kg SO2eq 1,93E-01 1,87E-01 1,82E-01
Eutrophication kg PO4 eq 2,17E-02 2,14E-02 2,12E-02
Heavy metals kg Pb eq 1,68E-04 1,65E-04 1,61E-04
Carcinogens kg B(a)P eq 3,84E-06 3,89E-06 3,83E-06
Pesticides kg act.subst 0,00E+00 0,00E+00 0,00E+00
Summer smog kg C2H4 eq 7,88E-03 7,89E-03 7,85E-03
Winter smog kg SPM eq 4,34E+00 4,34E+00 4,33E+00
Energy resources MJ LHV 4,40E+02 4,42E+02 4,34E+02
Solid waste kg 7,01E-01 7,01E-01 7,01E-01

Durability model. As noted previously, an accurate prediction of the durability of each panel is
necessary for an accurate assessment of complete life cycle impacts. Thus, the effect of the
various fiber types (US, China, and Brazil) on crack formation was quantified and the effect of
these cracks on panel durability and expected service life was modeled.

A laboratory experiment was conducted to quantify the crack distribution in fiber reinforced
cementitious materials reinforced with each type of fiber. Fiber reinforced mortar samples with
dimensions 30cm x 10cm x 1.5cm were cast in the lab with identical mortar mixes and one of
the three PP fibers (US, Brazil and China) with a 0.67 g/L dosage. Each sample was air cured
under laboratory conditions for four days to promote the appearance of shrinkage cracks. After
these cracks formed, the width and number of surface cracks observed on each sample were
recorded via microscopic visual inspection. Based on these crack counts, the distribution of
crack widths in each fiber reinforced material (US, Brazil, China) was characterized. One of the
characterizations is shown in Figure 2. The probabilistic distribution that best fit the distribution
of cracks in the fiber reinforced samples was found to be a Pareto distribution. Based on this
characteristic distribution, the average number of cracks and their width was calculated for a
concrete facade panel made with each of three concretes (US reinforced, Brazil reinforced,
China reinforced). The number of cracks expected in each of the three panels, and their
corresponding widths, are shown in Table 3. As shown, the US and Brazilian fibers are the
highest quality and are capable of keeping crack widths tight, while Chinese fibers are lower
quality and allow fewer cracks to open wider. These results are used as direct inputs into the
durability and corrosion model.

M.Costa et al.
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Figure 2: Distribution of shrinkage cracks in mortar reinforced with Brazilian polypropylene fibers and a fit of this
distribution using a Pareto distribution (red line).

Table 3: Average width and number of cracks expected within a concrete faade panel reinforced with each of
the three types of fibers studied.

Mortar fiber
reinforcement
Average width of
cracks (m)
Average number of
cracks
PP American fiber 23 16
PP Brazilian fiber 18 18
PP Chinese fiber 46 2

To model the time to end of service life for each of the panels, a multi-physics model of the
transport and corrosion of fiber reinforced, cracked panels was implemented. Due to symmetry
within the panels, only a thin strip of the top half of each panel was modeled. Based on the
crack widths and crack numbers from Table 3, a cracked geometry for multi-physics finite
element modeling was created. For illustration, the cracked geometry (finite element mesh
overlaid) for the Chinese fiber panel is shown in Figure 3. As seen, the panel has two cracks,
each 46m wide. Following Thoft-Christensen (2000), the width of the cracks is assumed
decrease linearly versus depth. Therefore, wider cracks penetrate deeper into the panel.


Figure 3: Multi-physics modeling geometry for cracked fiber reinforced panel

Environmental conditions for each of the three panels were assumed to be equivalent. The
relative humidity exposure ranged from a high of 0.9 in the winter to 0.74 in the summer. The
oxygen concentration in the atmosphere was assumed to be constant year-round at 0.05kg/m
3
.
The surface chloride concentration ranged from a high of 0.035g Cl
-
/kg cement during the winter
months to a low of 0.01 g Cl
-
/kg cement during the summer months. The exposure temperature
ranged from a low of 275K in the winter to a high of 290K in the summer.
Life Cycle Assessment and Design of Cementitious Building Faade Elements
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To better incorporate durability effects into the life cycle modeling of reinforced concrete
structures, a multi-physics multi-scale modeling suite for reinforced concrete deterioration was
implemented. The development of this suite covers topics related to the material (GEIKER et al.,
2007; DE WEERDT et al., 2012; JENSEN et al., 2012) and structural scale (SKOCEK et al.,
2008; SVEC et al., 2008; RAO, 2014), as well as deterioration phenomenon (KUTER 2009,
PEASE, 2010; MICHEL et al., 2012) of reinforced concrete structures.

The initiation and propagation of corrosion on the steel WWF as a result of the varying crack
widths and depths in the panels is shown in Figure 4. The limit state selected for the end-of-
service life is a 20% decrease in structural load capacity, which corresponds to a loss of
0.15mm on the surface of the 6mm diameter reinforcing wires [TORRES-ACOSTA et al., 2006].
For the Brazilian fiber reinforced panel this limit state occurs after 14.2 years. For the US and
Chinese fiber reinforced panels it occurs at 13.8 and 8.8 years, respectively.


Figure 4: Initiation and propagation of corrosion of steel WWF (section loss) in panels containing Brazilian fibers
(left), US fibers (center), and Chinese fibers (right)

Results and Discussion. When taking into account that over the 30 year life cycle of the
building the US and Brazilian fiber reinforced panels will have to be replaced approximately
twice, while the Chinese fiber reinforced panel will have to replaced more than three times, the
life cycle impacts of three panels differ significantly. This is shown in Figure 5. As seen, the US
and Brazilian fiber-reinforced panels remain similar, but the low quality Chinese fiber has
significant effects on durability and therefore life cycle greenhouse gas emissions.


Figure 5: Cradle-to-grate (left bars) and life cycle (right bars) greenhouse gas emissions from the three panels
considering the replacement schedules over to 30 year service-life.

Conclusion. Direct conclusions of this work are that the cradle-to-gate life cycle impacts of
concrete faade panels reinforced with three different polypropylene fibers (US, Brazil, China)
are very similar. However, when the cracking properties of these three fiber reinforced
concretes is considered and incorporated into a comprehensive durability model the poorer life
cycle performance of the lower quality Chinese fiber reinforced panels becomes clear. More
generally this study serves as evidence that durability is a critical modeling factor when
performing life cycle assessments of concrete faade panels.
M.Costa et al.
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