Predicting environmental impact with Next Generation Impact Assessment

To provide insight into the potential environmental impact of innovations in construction and infrastructure at an early stage of technology development, in particular those that contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions. TNO is committed to this with next generation impact assessment.

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The circular economy is still insufficiently anchored in existing analyses, such as the life cycle analysis (LCA), that aim to assess environmental impact. The impact assessment criteria are under development and should be made applicable to the four R's: reduce, recycle, reuse and remanufacture. By realising this, TNO makes it possible to calculate variables such as CO2 emissions and the environmental cost indicator (ECI) value and to provide insight into the consequences of choices for the future.

Knowledge of life cycle analysis

With next generation impact assessment TNO is focusing on the future. For example, how can we predict the environmental impact of technologies and innovations, which are also in a state of flux, by 2030 or 2050? If the industry is working on sustainable concrete, it is necessary to calculate the effect of recycling and the recycling methods that exist in the changing world.

TNO combines in-depth knowledge about life cycle analyses with domain-specific knowledge about, for example, construction, sustainability and the ecosystem. The analyses take into account every aspect of the circular economy.

Circular Value Creation

In the Circular Value Creation program we quantify and model the impact – environmental, economic and social - of circular and sustainable technologies, strategies & policies. We focus on impact analyses and value creation models, connecting to circular hubs and accelerating transition to a circular economy. Aiming at 3 transition agenda’s: build environment & infrastructure, manufacturing industry and consumption products. And aim at (inter)national and local governments and authorities as launching customers in initiating the transition.

Approach social impact

Through Social LCA, TNO analyzes the social and socioeconomic effects throughout the life cycle. This involves the impact and conditions experienced by employees, consumers, local communities and society during the life cycle in terms of, for example, labor law (fair pay, forced labor, child labor), data privacy, safe and healthy living conditions and corruption.

Using the Social Hotspot Database and the Social LCA methodology, TNO has developed an approach to determine the social and socio-economic effects throughout the lifecycle. TNO helps companies and governments to map out the often complex social impact of their actions. For example, the Municipality of Amsterdam, which is investigating the effects of material flows in the city on the environment and climate and social impact in the "Monitor Amsterdam Circulair".

Optimal building environmental performance

The Netherlands aims to maximise the contribution of the built environment to the environmental and climate objectives. The optimum performance of a building lies in an integrated approach to its energy, climate and environmental performance over its entire lifespan. That is why TNO is working on innovations for both new buildings and renovations that will help to optimise the energy measures.

Quantifying the impact of the circular economy

A circular economy is about stimulating reuse. For the built environment this presents a huge challenge. This means that the service life may be 80 years or even longer. Differentiation between upcycling and downcycling is also a challenge. Asphalt can be recycled in the top layer at high quality, but it can also be used as rubble in the foundation at low quality.

With solutions that quantify the environmental impact of the circular economy, TNO helps public authorities and large companies to make informed decisions.

Predicting the environmental impact of new technologies

Investments in construction are made for the long term. In a life cycle analysis it is therefore necessary to be able to calculate the environmental impact using future scenarios. This means that, for example, the energy transition in the models will result in both an increased use of renewable energy in 2030 and 2050 and an increase in sustainable transport.

Also growth in the use of secondary raw materials through recycling cannot automatically be included in the life cycle analysis. TNO researches the effects of new technologies, so that investments are based on developments that the construction industry is experiencing.

TNO Insights

Circular economy: This is how you also determine a product’s social impact

10 March 2022
The circular economy is becoming increasingly important. However, while our primary focus is currently on the environment, it is high time to look at it from a social perspective as well. In other words,... Read more
Circular economy
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Ing. Mark van Ommen MBA

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