How a life cycle approach delivers value towards decarbonisation  

Dionne Pereira

Dionne Pereira

Sustainability Consultant

In September 2023, we released the findings from our first Middle East sustainability survey, Building a sustainable future in the Middle East. In this report, we identified four recommendations, centred around regulation, project lifecycles, sustainable procurement, and net zero, that aim to guide the construction industry towards a sustainable future. In this article, the second in the series, we explore how a life cycle perspective can support delivering effective results throughout the industry.

In recent years, the Middle East’s construction industry has experienced immense growth, which has impacted both supply and demand. Both geopolitical and socioeconomic factors have also affected the functioning of supply chains, meaning regional priorities have shifted.  

The construction sector needs to identify ways to adapt to the region’s constantly changing landscape while also building resilience against the imminent climate crisis. An increasingly effective way to achieve this is by adopting a life cycle approach. 

Understanding the importance of a life cycle approach

A life cycle approach involves undertaking a thorough evaluation of all elements of a project. This includes initiation and design, construction and commissioning, operations, maintenance, refurbishment and replacement, deconstruction and end-of-life of assets.  

Adopting a systematic approach to assess all the factors that influence a project can avoid environmental impacts being shifted elsewhere within the life cycle. 

Across the Middle East, construction companies are making ambitious net-zero commitments and, as a significant carbon source, the construction industry plays a critical role in the pathway towards reducing emissions.  

Adopting a sustainable approach through carbon accounting will impact the capital cost of a project, making it essential to understand its feasibility from the project inception. Considering both carbon emissions and financial expenses across all stages of a project's life cycle will help maximise efficiency. 

The benefits of a life cycle approach

A life cycle approach enables those within the construction industry to make effective decisions and minimise environmental impact through both improved material selection and enhanced long-term planning. Understanding the benefits of a life cycle approach is also crucial if more players in the industry are to adopt this perspective. 

Guide decision-making processes - sustainable operational performance is no longer an afterthought in many markets but integral to decision-making. This helps ensure sustainable targets set out during the briefing stage are realised throughout the project. 

Future-proof processes - regulatory evolution is shaping the future of the Middle Eastern construction industry as new laws that aim to curb carbon emissions come into play. This demonstrates how governments have started to recognise the need for more comprehensive policies aimed at improving the industry’s carbon footprint. A life cycle approach can help stakeholders adopt processes with the aim of being resilient to future stringent regulations in the long term. 

Elevate impact assessments - undertaking a life cycle assessment (LCA) provides a data-driven approach that supports quantifying environmental impacts associated with different products, enabling a holistic view. This can then lead to effective decision-making during the initial stages of design.  

An LCA provides an opportunity to regularly monitor the impact of decisions at different points in a project life cycle. Through assessment of these decisions, project teams can identify areas with high impact, as well as products and procedures that will deliver optimal results, such as greater environmental impacts and lower maintenance costs. 

The challenges of adopting a life cycle approach  

While there are many benefits to adopting a life cycle approach, there are still challenges in the region that need to be addressed to achieve maximum value and put the focus on sustainability, and these are centred around: 

Data quality and transparency - there is a fundamental challenge with lack of local suppliers who have products and materials with Environment Product Declaration (EPDs), which hinders the process of effective environmental impact comparison. This leads to projects having to compromise on sourcing products from outside the region (with often detailed environmental data available) or sourcing locally (without an understanding of their impact) - a consequence that inhibits effective decision-making.  

Focus on capital spend - there is an imbalance in the assessment of value from capital cost and realisation of actual value across the life cycle of the project. Project teams are often pressured to drive down capital cost in isolation due to the focus on short return on investment timeframes, instead of looking at whole life cycle costs. Strategies resulting in immediate benefits are preferred over opportunities that deliver savings in cost and carbon across the project life cycle.  

Integration into decision-making - when conducting an LCA, it can be challenging to consistently coordinate findings. Projects in region tend to run on stringent timelines and given the varying awareness of life cycle approaches among projects stakeholders, this restricts the full benefits of the process being realised. The need for coordination across different teams, and the complexity of the data, makes it challenging to effectively integrate LCA results into decision-making processes. 

An integrated and sustainable future  

Developers in the Middle East are becoming more aware of the environmental impacts of their assets and are consistently looking for possibilities to decrease their carbon footprint.  

The benefit of decarbonisation becomes apparent only when all potential implications are well explored and understood, highlighting the benefit of adopting a complete life cycle strategy.  

Integrating carbon-based decision-making can help include circular thinking and generate a significant impact in reducing Scope 3 emissions in the Middle East.  

There is an opportunity to realise the value in decarbonisation, but this is only possible if industry experts move from the current siloed approach to collaborative approaches across all stages of project delivery.


For further information contact:

Dionne Pereira

Dionne Pereira
Sustainability Consultant