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January 25, 2022 - 10 min

The Lifecycle Analysis of the SOPREMA Plant in Woodstock (ON)

Published by Pierre-André Lebeuf

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The Lifecycle Analysis of the SOPREMA Plant in Woodstock (ON)

In May 2020, SOPREMA completed the construction of its brand-new sealant manufacturing plant in Woodstock (ON). Covering an area of 10,015 m2, the building is also LEED v4 certified.

The design team, made up of SOPREMA and Lemay, considered the building’s lifecycle as part of the construction project, unlike the other plants established in Canada by the company so far. In addition to addressing several environmental issues, this approach made it possible to meet the requirements of the LEED credit “Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction” in the “Materials and Resources” (MR) category. More precisely, this credit requires that at least three environmental indicators of a building’s lifecycle analysis (LCA) reveal an impact reduction of more than 10% compared to the reference building [1]. In this case, the lifecycle analysis consists of defining and measuring the environmental damage to the building throughout its lifecycle—from the extraction of raw materials to its end of useful life.  

Read this case study to learn more about the lifecycle analysis and the reduction of environmental impacts related to the building materials of the SOPREMA plant in Woodstock (ON).

Project Collaborators

  • Client: SOPREMA
  • Architect: Lemay
  • General contractor: Pomerleau
  • Structural engineer: Elema
  • Expert in lifecycle analysis: Groupe AGÉCO

Project Description

  • Project: SOPREMA plant—Woodstock (ON).
  • Location: Woodstock (ON).
  • Total area: 10,015.25 m2.
  • Service life of the building (modelled): 60 years.
  • Scope: From cradle to grave, excluding the operational power in the Use stage.
  • Scope of the assessment: Footing and foundations, superstructure, structural floors and ceilings, envelope, interior finishes, and roof assemblies.
  • Units: Metrics (IS).
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Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) Parameters

The LCA encompasses the impacts of the building over 60 years and applies the “cradle to grave” logic, which, in this case, includes the stages of Production of materials, Construction, Use, and End of useful life of the building [2].

Scope of the System (Building) Under Study

All the main reference flows, that is, the quantity of materials and resources necessary to build the SOPREMA plant, were considered to define the functional unit. In addition to the items shown in the next table, the analysis excludes several items mentioned below, such as the energy consumption related to the Use stage (B1)1.

It should be remembered that the LCA is focused on the impact of materials, since it mainly aimed to meet the requirements of the LEED certification for the “Materials and Resources” (MR) category. It was therefore not necessary to consider the impacts related to energy consumption at the level of the building usage. While not being addressed in this publication, this essential element has nevertheless been analyzed separately to meet the requirements of the LEED credit “Optimize Energy Performance” in the “Energy and Atmosphere” (EA) category.

Steps Considered in the LCA of the SOPREMA Plant
Materials Production2 Construction3 Use4 End of Useful Life5
(A1) Extraction and production of raw materials (A4) Transportation of the materials to the site (B2) Maintenance work (C1) Dismantling
(A2) Transportation of raw materials (A5) Energy consumption (B3) Repair work (C2) Transportation of residual materials
(A3) Manufacture of materials (B4) Replacement of materials (C3) Treatment of residual materials
(C4) Disposal of residual materials

1 Exclusions: Not being a requirement of the LEED certification for the “Materials and Resources” (MR) category, the LCA excludes the building’s energy and fossil fuel consumption, the excavation and the development of the site, the nonstructural interior finishing materials (partitions and interior finishes), floor and ceiling finishing materials, movable property, electronic and mechanical equipment, control equipment, plumbing fixtures, fire-prevention equipment, elevators, conveyor systems, parking area, etc.

2 Production (A1-A3): This step includes the extraction and processing of the raw materials needed to manufacture construction materials (e.g. concrete, structural steel sections and plates, reinforcing bars, roofing membranes, insulating metal panels, etc.). The transportation of raw materials to the final manufacturing facility and the manufacturing and assembly of the final building materials are also included.

3 Construction (A4-A5): This step includes the truck transportation of construction materials to the project site, heating in winter, and the use of machinery on the site. The excavation and development of the site have been excluded.

4 Use (B2-B4): This step includes the maintenance and replacement of necessary materials during the 60-year service life of the building. The production of replacement materials and their transportation to the project site are assigned to this stage. Energy consumption linked to use (A1) has been excluded.

5 End of life (C1 to C4): This step includes the demolition processes, that is, the use of demolition or dismantling equipment used at the end of the building’s useful life.

Description of the System (Building) Under Study

In order to facilitate the results comparison, the reference building is defined as a building whose design is based as equivalent to the SOPREMA plant, but which is more representative of the standard materials and practices currently used in the industry. In other words, the reference building corresponds to a theoretical building for which strategies to reduce the environmental footprint have not been deployed. It constitutes the parameters for comparing the environmental impacts that were modelled in the LCA of the SOPREMA plant.

  • The functional unit used for the two buildings is as follows:
    10,015.25 m2 effective area of the building for 60 years.
  • The SOPREMA plant and the theoretical reference building both refer to the construction of a new manufacturing plant in Woodstock, Ontario. The two buildings with an area of 10,015.25 m2 include office, manufacturing and warehouse space. They also have a concrete and steel structure.

The calculation parameters consider the context of the building which, in this case, is in Ontario, Canada. In this sense, it should be known that taking the context into account can greatly influence the results of the LCA, specifically those relating to the impacts of the sources of energy consumed. For example, electricity production in Ontario is 34% from renewable sources compared to 66% from fossil fuels [3].

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All rights reserved. David Boyer Photography

Briefly, the analysis encompasses all the materials and processes required to erect the foundation, superstructure, structural floors and ceilings, envelope, interior finish and roof assembly of the building. In other words, this means that the other building components that are not mentioned were not considered in the LCA.

Elements of the Building Considered in the LCA of the SOPREMA Plant
Elements of the Building Examples of Items Included
Structure
(87% of the total mass of materials)
  • Footing and foundation (concrete and reinforcing bar)
  • Insulation (SOPRA-XPS)
  • Membranes (TPO, COLPHENE and SOPRADRAIN 10G)
  • Ground floor and 1st floor slabs (concrete + reinforcing bar)
Superstructure
(6% of the total mass of materials)
  • Steel beams and columns (type H-beams, U-beams, I-beams), hollow and tubular steel profile (type HSS)
  • Metal plate for assembly
Outer envelope
(2% of the total mass of materials)
  • Sandwich panel
  • Aluminum cladding panel
  • Glazing
  • Metallic studs
  • Air and vapour barrier (SOPRASEAL STICK)
Roofing system
(1% of the total mass of materials)
  • Roofing membrane (SOPRAVAP'R, SOPRASMART, and SOPRASTAR)
  • Insulation (SOPRA-ISO)
  • Green roof (SOPRANATURE)
Interior construction
(4% of the total mass of materials)
  • Metallic studs
  • Concrete masonry blocks
  • Galvanized steel panel
  • Insulation (fibreglass and rock fibre)
  • Gypsum board

Description of the Calculation Parameters and Impact Categories

The modelling was carried out using the SimaPro 8.4 calculation software. The impact assessment method chosen is TRACI v2.1, all under the requirements of ISO 14,044/14,040 and EN15978. Several databases, such as Ecoinvent and GaBi, were also consulted to support the calculations.

The six categories of environmental impacts considered in the LCA of the building are briefly listed below. Not being required to meet the requirements of the mentioned standards, the other environmental impact categories were not considered in the LCA.

Environmental Impact Categories Considered in the LCA of the SOPREMA Plant
Impact Categories Examples of Items Included
Global warming potential
(kg of CO2 eq.)
  • Refers to the impact of an increase in temperature on global climate trends (e.g. severe floods and droughts, accelerated melting of glaciers) due to the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (e.g. carbon dioxide and methane from the combustion of fossil fuels). GHG emissions contribute to the increased absorption of solar radiation at the Earth’s surface. These emissions are expressed in units of kg of carbon dioxide equivalents (kg CO2 eq.).
Ozone depletion potential
(kg CFC-11 eq.)
  • Refers to the potential for reducing the level of the stratospheric ozone layer due to the release of certain molecules such as refrigerants used in cooling systems (e.g. chlorofluorocarbons). When these molecules react with the ozone (O3), the concentration of ozone in the stratosphere decreases and is no longer sufficient to absorb ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can pose risks to human health and the terrestrial environment. The concentration of molecules linked to this phenomenon is expressed in kilograms of trichlorofluoromethane equivalents (kg CFC-11 eq.).
Acidification of land and water sources
(kg SO2 eq.)
  • Refers to the change in acidity; that is, the reduction in pH at soil and water level due to human activity. Generally, the increase in emissions of CO2 and other air pollutants (for example, NOx and SO2) generated by the transportation and manufacturing sectors are the main causes of this category of impact. The acidification of land and water has multiple consequences, such as the degradation of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, which can compromise the life of many species and food security. The concentration of gases responsible for acidification is expressed in sulphur dioxide equivalents (kg SO2 eq.).
Eutrophication potential
(kg of N eq.)
  • Refers to the degree of enrichment of an aquatic or terrestrial ecosystem relating to the release of nutrients (e.g. nitrates and phosphates) due to natural or human activity (e.g. the discharge of wastewater into waterways). In an aquatic environment, this activity results in the growth of algae, which consume the dissolved oxygen present in the water when they degrade, and thus affect species sensitive to the concentration of dissolved oxygen. In addition, the increase in nutrients in the soil makes it difficult for the terrestrial environment to manage the excess biomass produced. The concentration of nutrients at the origin of this impact is expressed in nitrogen equivalents (kg N eq.).
Tropospherical ozone formation
(kg O3 eq.)
  • Refers to emissions of pollutants such as nitrogen oxide (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere. They are mainly generated by motor vehicles, power plants and industrial plants. By reacting with sunlight, these pollutants create smog, which can affect human health and cause various respiratory problems. The concentration of pollutants that cause smog is expressed in kg of ozone equivalents (kg O3 eq.).
Potential for depletion of non-renewable resources
(MJ eq.)
  • Refers to the depletion of non-renewable energy resources that may be related to the use of energy from renewable resources (e.g. wind, sun, and water) and non-renewable resources (e.g. natural gas, coal, and petroleum). The amount of primary energy used is expressed in megajoules, based on the net heating value of the resources (MJ eq.).

Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) Results

In order to present the complexity of the subject, especially when the time comes to address the various impacts analyzed, the main results of the environmental indicators discussed in the LCA are presented. It should be remembered that the reduction corresponds to the difference measured between the proposed building (the SOPREMA plant) and the (theoretical) reference building.

Comparison of Results by Environmental Impact Category

Overall, the LCA results show a reduction in environmental impacts that can vary from 6% to 16%. The indicators relating to the global warming potential (12%), the ozone depletion potential (12%) and the eutrophication potential (16%) are the results that make it possible to meet the requirements of LEED v4, because their reduction is greater than 10%.

Beyond this compliance, the results also reveal an average reduction in environmental impacts. As shown in the table below, this overall reduction is on average 11% compared to the reference building.

Comparison of Results by Environmental Impact Category Between the SOPREMA Plant and the Reference Building (per m2)

Proportion of Results by Environmental Impact Category

Excluding the building energy consumption related to the use, the results shown in the graph below show that on average, for all categories, the main environmental impacts are attributable to the production (64%), replacement (8%) and end of useful life (17%) of materials. On average, 89% of the impacts would be attributable to materials.

Proportion of Results by Environmental Impact Category According to the Stages of the SOPREMA Plant's Lifecycle (per m2)
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Reduction of Embodied Carbon

In order to better popularize the environmental impacts relating to the components and stages of the lifecycle of the SOPREMA plant, compared to the reference building, the global warming potential (kg of CO2 eq. /m2) is the indicator used. It should be noted that this refers to the impact of GHG emissions on the increase in temperature on a global climate scale. Being approached from the perspective of embodied carbon in this case, the concept refers to the carbon emissions that flow from the manufacture, transportation, installation, use and end of life of construction materials.

Comparison of the Carbon Impact According to the Construction Components

Overall, the impact of the SOPREMA plant on the global warming potential is 12% lower than that of the reference building. As shown in the graph below, the impact is equivalent for the superstructure (0%), while the reduction is significant for the roof (-17%) as well as the foundation and the slab on the ground (-5%). However, the biggest reduction is in the external envelope (-45%).

Proportion of Results by Environmental Impact Category According to the Stages of the SOPREMA Plant's Lifecycle (per m2)

These results reveal a significant reduction in the potential for global warming. Compared to the reference building, the SOPREMA plant avoids the emission of 50 kg of CO2 eq. by m2. This corresponds to approximately 505 tonnes of CO2 eq. for the building as a whole, or the equivalent of removing 153 vehicles from Canadian roads annually.

Beyond this reduction, it is possible to observe the impact of the various building components. As shown in the next graph, the portion of the SOPREMA plant corresponding to the foundation and the concrete slab represents approximately 45% of the building’s carbon impact, while the superstructure represents 31%. To a lesser extent then, are the exterior envelope (11%), the roof (10%) and the interior construction (2%).

Proportion of Global Warming Potential (kg of CO2 eq./m2) According to the Components Between the SOPREMA Plant and the Reference Building
Graphic

Comparison of the Carbon Impact According to the Stages of the Building’s Lifecycle

Again in comparison to the reference building, the next graph shows that, for the SOPREMA plant, the reduction of the main impacts is 40 kg of CO2 eq./m2 for the production of materials and 10 kg of CO2 eq./m2 for the other stages of the lifecycle. This means that 79% of the reduction in carbon impact would be attributable to the production of materials compared to 21% for other stages of the lifecycle. It should be remembered that the results exclude the use step linked to energy consumption.

Comparison of Global Warming Potential (kg of CO2 eq./m2) According to the Stages of the Lifecycle Between the SOPREMA Plant and the Reference Building
Graphic

Based on the same graph, it is possible to see that the production of materials represents more than 85% of the SOPREMA plant’s carbon impact. In order of importance, the carbon impact attributable to the replacement (7%), transportation (4%) and end of life (3%) of materials is much lower. The Construction stage corresponds to less than 2% of the impact linked to this indicator.

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Building Design Initiatives

The achievement of these results was possible thanks to strategic choices in the design of the building. Increasing the quantity of recycled content in the materials, optimizing the choice of materials, improving the design or even local procurement are options that were considered in the project.

Based on the indicator relating to the global warming potential (kg of CO2 eq./m2), the reduction of 12% discussed previously is mainly attributable to the choices relating to sandwich panels (-4%), to the use of concrete (-3%), to the improvement of the building’s design (-3%), to the roofing system (-1%) and to the window frames (-1%). Here is an overview of the actions deployed in the project by component, compared to the reference building.

List of Initiatives Contributing to the Reduction of the Global Warming Potential of the SOPREMA Plant Compared to the Reference Building
Component Reference Building SOPREMA Plant Justification of the Functional Equivalence Between the Two Options
Sandwich panel (-4%) Precast concrete sandwich panel with polyurethane insulating panel. Kingspan sandwich panel composed of a polyurethane insulating panel between 2 metal sheets. The 2 assemblies have the same thermal resistance and a service life of over 60 years.
Design improvement (-3%) Because the four raw material silos are integrated inside the building, more sandwich panels and roof membranes are needed. The four raw material silos are installed outside the building and are insulated with 1,015 kg of additional insulating board.
  • Relocation of the silos outside the plant.
The collaboration between Lemay and SOPREMA made it possible to reduce the quantity of materials for the exterior envelope and the roof by leaving certain silos outside the building without compromising the efficiency of the plant.
Concrete (-3%) 3,500 m3 of 30 MPa conventional concrete from a North American plant (mix 22 of the CRMCA’s EPD) [4]. 1,550 m3 of 30 MPa and 25 MPa concrete from a North American plant containing 30% of slag (mixes 31 and 33 of the CRMCA’s EPD) and 1,950 m3 of 30 MPa conventional concrete (mix 22 of the CRMCA’s EPD).
  • Integration of fly ash (recycled) in concrete.
  • Selection of local suppliers.
Same compressive strength and same service life.
Roofing system (-1%) Modified bitumen roofing membrane (SBS base coat + top coat, according to the EPD [5], torch applied from ARMA) with the addition of a gypsum backing board. SOPRASMART ISO HD 180 assembly (modelled according to the specific EPD of SOPREMA [6]).
  • Use of lower impact products with an EPD (e.g. SOPRAVAP'R, SOPRASMART, SOPRASTAR, and SOPRA-ISO).
  • Presence of a 420 m2 green roof.
The two assemblies will be replaced after 30 years and are installed with the same 150 mm thick insulating panel.
Window frame (-1%) Window frame manufactured by a North American manufacturer. Window frame made by a Québec manufacturer whose aluminum comes from a Québec aluminum smelter. The two window frames have the same thermal resistance, the same function and the same service life.

Other Initiatives Linked to SOPREMA's Commitments

Several other initiatives have been deployed and can potentially have a positive impact on the environment and human health. However, the impact of many of them has not been specifically demonstrated in the LCA. As a summary, here is an overview of the most significant initiatives based on SOPREMA’s three sustainable development commitments in Canada.

Logo Engagement
  • Optimized natural lighting with windows.
  • 100% of offices have views of the landscaped areas.
  • Materials with low VOC emissions.
  • Indoor air quality monitoring plan during construction.
  • Outdoor convivial spaces for employees.
  • Rainwater management with landscaping and green roofing.
  • 20% reduction in water consumption compared to a comparable building.
  • 88% recycling of construction waste.
  • 100% of roofs and exterior surfaces are reflective or vegetated.
  • Green cleaning policy for housekeeping.
  • 12% energy savings compared to a comparable building.
  • 12% reduction in carbon impact compared to a comparable building (507 t. of CO2 eq. avoided, which corresponds to around 107 cars for a year).
  • 2 charging stations for electric vehicles.
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References

[1]  U.S. Green Building Council [USGBC]. (2019). LEED v4 for Building Design and Construction.
[2]  Groupe AGÉCO. (2018). Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction Credit Option 4. LCA OF SOPREMA’S PLANT.
[3]  Canada Energy Regulator. (2021). Canada’s Renewable Power Landscape 2016—Energy Market Analysis—Ontario.

[4]  Canadian Ready-Mixed Concrete Association [CRMCA]. (2017). Ready-Mixed Concrete, Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).

[5]  Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association (2018). SBS-Modified Bitumen Roofing Membrane, Torch Applied, Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).

[6]  SOPREMA. (2017). SBS-Modified Bitumen Roofing Membrane, Penalized, Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).