Dr Olubukola Tokede, known to his friends and colleagues as Bukky, is a Life Cycle Certified Assessment Professional (LCACP) with over 10 years’ experience integrating life cycle thinking into infrastructure projects. A senior lecturer at Deakin University, Bukky initiated and takes the research lead for the ‘Thinking Buildings’ project. He is also the cradle-to-cradle research theme leader of the Live +Smart Lab at Deakin.
We spoke to Bukky about his life cycle experience, projects and hopes for the future of LCA.
When (and why) did you first become involved in sustainability?
I became involved in sustainability through my research work in the UK. Sustainability was not initially my first attraction but “life cycle science and life cycle thinking” was my fascination. It made sense to me, that the majority of important decisions tend to have validity in light of long-term considerations and of course, the long-term was usually the rather far-reaching variable, so thus started my journey in the field of sustainability. However, the mathematical modelling of sustainability became my initial task, and the application and development of this aspect became a research interest for me.
Having a background in civil engineering further entrenched my interest as buildings and civil engineering structures tend to exist for a long period of time. Furthermore, it is almost common knowledge that buildings contribute approximately 40% to global warming potentials and with concrete and steel being a bit of a ‘wild card’ in the race to sustainability. After completing my PhD which was on mathematical modelling of sustainability, I decided to develop further expertise in environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) and social life cycle assessment (S-LCA).
After acquiring some expertise, I thought it best to introduce myself to the community of practitioners and I, therefore, attended my first ALCAS conference in 2019 where I met with practitioners like Rob Rouwette, Tim Grant, Jonas Bengtsson, Maartje Sevenster and a host of many other helpful and professional LCA experts. This community deepened my interest in sustainability and the potentials have seemed endless since then.
You are the initiator of Deakin’s Thinking Buildings Project. Can you explain this project and what led you to get it started?
Thanks for this important question. Having had some interactions with the peak industry body for LCA in Australia and attained the LCACP, I thought it was best to have a platform where academia and industry work together to co-create value and also flourish in the built environment space. This idea was well received by my colleagues and partners, and we started out by first getting some high-level industry presentations to shape our ideas. One of our first presenters was from NABERS – Carlos Flores, and we later invited many other committed and practising sustainability practitioners.
As we further delved into this, it was clear that it was desirable and valuable to have industry work together on projects. Equally, Thinking Building started to become a pipeline for useful industry data, and we further moved on into the public sector to build some important alliances across both the national and international sectors. The specific competencies of the group include life cycle sustainability assessment, environmentally sustainable design, industry practice, indoor environmental assessment, building performance measurement, digital interoperability in construction and sustainability implementation.
Our realisation though, is that while it has been valuable having a team of committed professionals to work on building and infrastructure projects and to develop expertise and capabilities in sustainability, there still seems to be limited uptake of sustainability particularly with balancing the cost implications – which has been sorely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and follow-on interest-rate hikes across many nations.
You are also the Cradle-to-Cradle research theme leader for the Live +Smart Lab at Deakin. What’s involved in this role?
Thanks for flagging this up. Although, I must confess that this role is perhaps getting defunct due to changes at the university. So, Live + Smart Lab has morphed into “Biophilia lab” at Deakin and as the cradle-to-cradle research theme leader, the objective has been to try to incorporate life cycle thinking into different industry projects. With the new focus on Biophilia, we are still getting our heads around the role as ‘biophilia’ is a relatively new concept and quantitative data on this is still limited. LCA, as a very data-intensive methodology, is yet to be applied to its full extent.
Nevertheless, as the cradle-to-cradle theme leader, I have been involved in organising industry seminars and events that address areas of sustainability. There is an overlap between my role in leading “Thinking Building’ as well as serving as the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ research theme leader. Finally, as the cradle-to-cradle research theme leader, I am often in charge of writing book chapters or research opinions on the implication of life cycle thinking on projects being developed/run by the Lab and hence, this provides further context to apply life cycle methodologies to different contexts.
You have been a Life Cycle Certified Assessment Professional for several years. What improvements, if any, would you like to see in life cycle methodologies?
Being an LCACP has been one of the highlights of my professional career and has provided insights into the intricacies of conducting LCA. Regarding the life cycle methodologies, my biggest issue now is to deepen my understanding of “the role of capital goods in life cycle assessment”. Capital goods are starting to generate intense discourse among practitioners and especially by bodies such as the International EPD. Given that life cycle inventories are often composed of foreground and background data; capital goods often form part of the background data, and the inclusion of capital goods triggers some huge methodological issues. I would, therefore, like to see improvement in the treatment of capital goods in LCAs in the future.
Furthermore, I will be keen to see life cycle sustainability assessment become more mainstream. Currently, Social LCA, Economic LCA and Environmental LCA seem like three disparate methodologies – understood and developed by different calibres of professionals. I believe a better integration of the three life cycle methodologies will be beneficial in enhancing the decision-support facilitated by life cycle methodologies and will provide a better context for addressing more global issues such as sustainable development goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement and the Renewable energy transition.