Options Magazine, Winter 2023: A recent study shed light on the gap in residential building life-cycle assessment studies, which disproportionately exclude low- and middle-income countries.

It is expected that the coming decades will see unprecedented levels of residential building construction, particularly in low- and middle-income (LMI) countries. In fact, LMI countries represent roughly 80% of the world’s current population and 99% of expected population growth over the next 10 years.

However, less than 50% of studies measuring residential building life-cycle assessment (LCA) include LMI countries. As a result, current commendations fail to address the very real needs of LMI countries in the design and construction of residential buildings.

In a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, researchers analyzed residential building LCA studies from the 135 LMI countries and created a classification system for diverse building types that can be used to inform future research.

Their results show that it is critical to not only streamline and organize residential building LCAs for LMI countries, but also for the representation of buildings from these countries in global studies.

“This study is the first to examine the heterogeneity of building types in low and middle-income countries,” explains study author Narasimha Rao, a senior researcher in the IIASA Energy, Climate, and Environment Program. “Understanding their impact on thermal stress will improve our ability to protect against greenhouse gas emissions from buildings in the Global South and better design mitigation solutions. Our objective is to incorporate these new building archetypes into IIASA’s energy models and refine scenarios of future emissions pathways that entail decent living standards for all.”

By Jeremy Summers