A life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) was carried out for three types of materials commonly used in domestic plumbing systems, copper, cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), and chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), to examine the efficiencies and tradeoffs involved in the material selection process. The LCIA results revealed that for all midpoint and damage impact categories, PEX systems have less of an impact on the environment than either copper or CPVC. The results from the LCIA approach were combined with economic, ergonomic, convenience, safety, and other relevant factors to produce a holistic decision model that can be used to optimize the material selection process. The model was applied to develop a formal preference elicitation methodology that revealed that health considerations (35%) have the greatest impact on consumer choice, followed by environmental impact (19%), taste and odor (13%), cost (11%), and corrosion resistance (10%). These findings will help policy experts and water utilities understand how homeowners make decisions and the factors they consider important when selecting alternative plumbing materials.

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