A Comparative Evaluation of the Environmental Impact of Prefabrication versus Conventional Construction in UAE’s Construction Industry

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
This research undertook a comparative life cycle assessment (LCA) of the performance of the conventional construction method in relation to the use of a selected prefabrication method – precast concrete construction. Using a case study high-rise commercial building in Dubai, UAE, the aim of the study was to evaluate the differences in energy consumption and environmental impact profiles for both construction technologies throughout the 50-year lifespan of the building, in order to determine which of the two had lower environmental impacts and energy consumption demands; and would be a better-performing alternative for the UAE’s construction industry. Using ATHENA Impact Estimator and eQUEST Energy Analysis tool, the case study building, The Binary, was simulated as ‘Binary A’ (the conventional concrete scenario) and ‘Binary B’ (the precast concrete scenario). The results showed that, based on the 50-year lifespan, about 44% savings in embodied energy could be incurred from the use of precast concrete technology in relation to conventional construction of the same building. In addition, the precast concrete building had over 7% better performance during its occupancy phase than the conventional concrete building. Furthermore, the use of offsite constructed components produced 9% less GWP overall than from the use of on-site construction. Therefore, precast concrete construction has the potential to improve the environmental performance of a high-rise structure by optimizing its embodied energy demand and reducing its operational energy requirements, in a more advantageous way than conventional concrete construction. Precast concrete construction also has the potential to contribute to UAE’s Kyoto self-imposed target for GWP reduction. The results of this study bear significance in dealing with the lack of information on the LCA of commercial high-rise buildings in UAE. An awareness and understanding of the environmental impacts as presented by the LCA results could have a significant influence on the choice of building construction techniques in the future.
environmental impact, conventional construction, construction industry, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), high-rise commercial building, United Arab Emirates (UAE), energy consumption