Combined MFA and LCA approach to evaluate the metabolism of service polygons: A case study on a university campus

Material Flow Analysis (MFA) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) are widely employed in the study of topics related to industrial ecology. However, unlike this study, they are normally used separately rather than jointly. Educational institutions are among the most deeply rooted services in society, producing knowledge, research and culture. This paper reports on a case study conducted in the region of Catalonia, Spain, to evaluate the metabolism of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) based on a combined MFA and LCA approach on two levels: macro-level analysis using MFA, and micro-level analysis using LCA. The MFA results indicated that energy consumption represents more than 50.00% of all inputs, and its associated indirect flows are highly relevant for UAB's overall metabolism, accounting for 69.30% of all energy inputs. As for the LCA results, the ReCiPe2008 method was adopted and 92.00% of all normalized impacts were related to the category of Climate Change Potential (CCP), also attributed mainly to energy consumption. Thus, both MFA and LCA methodologies indicated energy consumption is the main hotspot. The results of MFA indicators, energy and water flows were compared with earlier literature, revealing a clear tendency for industrial areas in Catalonia to show higher results than service polygons, as an effect of population density. Finally, the newly erected building of the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology and the Catalan Institute of Paleontology (ICTA-ICP) is described as an innovative alternative to promote environmental sustainability at universities that focus on energy and water conservation and CCP impacts reduction.

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