Elbasdi, Gulay; Blok, Rijk; Teuffel, Patrick

Material choice depicts great influence on the environmental performance of building structures through their impact on manufacturing technology and supply chain configuration. Traditional composite materials provide more lightweight structures than conventional materials, however, the associated high CO2eq impact and energy demand can be detrimental to the environment. Hence, the development of sustainable composites, bio-fibres, bio-polymers and bio-foams, has become an enticing research area. With an increasing demand for bio-composites, the environmental impacts of composite materials are increasingly the subject of policymakers and industry regarding its circularity. However, the most recent life-cycle assessment (LCA) tools are not suitable to evaluate the environmental impact of a bio-composite structure due to discrepancies in LCA methods and lack of data. This paper explains in details the rationale behind the in-house developed, Excel-based LCA tool for Natural Fibre-Reinforced Bio-polymer (NFRBP) composite structures. It demonstrates how the formulas build on existing data and standards; and how and why it differs from them. The main input and output flow in the production of loadbearing NFRBP composite structures have been assessed. The processes contributing most to the life-cycle damages resulting from bio-composite production have been identified. Biobased fibres, fillers and rigid foam that form bio-composite structural panel have been compared to other conventional products with the same function. Finally, based on recognised approaches, various end-of-life recycling scenarios were formulated. The environmental benefits of alternative end-of-life scenarios of the biobased composite structure have been highlighted compared to other treatment scenarios such as landfill and municipal incineration. The study has proved the importance of using biobased alternatives in building construction.