Environmental impacts of subsurface buildings. Comparing the environmental impacts of a subsurface building with an aboveground building using LCA.
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Population growth, increasing prosperity and urbanization are major challenges for the future that put pressure on land availability. Creating more high rise buildings is one option, but also the less explored subsurface construction could provide an increasing possibility. The question, however, is how subsurface construction compares environmentally to aboveground construction. In this research this is examined for a supermarket using the following research question: “How does a subsurface supermarket compare environmentally with an aboveground supermarket?” To give an answer to this question the LCA methodology was used. A subsurface supermarket in Brielle was used as a case study. An aboveground supermarket was designed based on the subsurface supermarket and used for comparison. The material use, energy use, transportation, and excavation were the elements of the life cycle that were examined within this research. Results were obtained using the software program SimaPro8. The impact methodology chosen was the Hierarchist version of the ReCiPe midpoint methodology with the normalisation values of Europe. Results showed that the electricity use was the determining factor that caused the subsurface supermarket to come out worse. In practice, however, the parking space of the aboveground supermarket could also be placed on top or under the supermarket due to land availability. The elevators, which were the major cause of the electricity difference, would then also be needed for the aboveground building. The materials used in the housing body of the supermarket showed a more positive result for the subsurface supermarket, which was caused by the piles underneath the supermarket. The subsurface supermarket then still provides opportunities for the future. Uncertainties in the data and assumptions, like the lifetime, could in the end be an important factor in the chances of subsurface construction. Also missing information and impacts not taken into account by the LCA could change the result. Social and local impacts were not taken into account by the LCA. A social LCA or environmental impact assessment could give more insight in this. The depth and climate at which a subsurface building is located can be important factors to examine in the future. The technical feasibility of subsurface construction is also dependant on underground site characteristics and thus might not be an option for every location.