What is Life-Cycle Assessment and why does everybody talk about it?

Life-Cycle Assessment in a nutshell and what every Green Building expert should know about it.

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Life-Cycle Assessment Guide for Green Building experts — Part 1

Have you been hearing more and more of Life-Cycle Assessment or LCA?

Have you tried reading about Life-Cycle Assessment and given up after being confronted with walls of technical data?

Fear not and read on for a simple, practical take on Life-Cycle Assessment that will clear up why it has become such an important concept for Green Building experts.

LCA answers the simple question: how sustainable is my product or process? We know products are not equal in terms of their environmental impact and putting a number on that can be hard. LCA is a standardized, science-based tool for quantifying the impact answering the simple question: How does my product or process affect the environment? 

Life-Cycle Assessment allows you to evaluate the effect on the environment of a product, service, or process over its entire life-cycle. This means that LCA takes into consideration all the steps that lead from raw material to manufactured product, including extraction of the materials, energy consumption, manufacture, transportation, use, recycling, and final disposal or end of life. It is a holistic methodology that quantifies how a product or process affects climate change, non-renewable resources, and the environment as a whole. Life-Cycle Assessment’s strength lies in the fact that it takes into account what happens before and after the final product is used by customers, and can effectively measures effects over a long time of period.

For example, if you want to know how your building will influence climate change during its entire existence, LCA can give you the answer.

LCA is a transparent alternative to greenwashing and commercial eco-friendly labels. In the world of sustainability metrics, LCA can produce results that you can trust, since it is based on international standards and not susceptible to commercial pressure from material providers. Instead of relying on hearsays, you can see at once what is the most sustainable alternative and use that data for all your future projects.

LCA is extensively used in the construction sector for a plethora of reasons:

  1. It can be used in the early design phase to identify the building´s environmental hotspots when it comes to carbon emissions and other environmental impacts
  2. LCA is a significant credit in BREEAM, LEED v4 and many other certifications
  3. It can be totally automated from existing design data allowing for cost-efficient benchmarking

Let’s dig a bit deeper and find out how it works in practice.

First of all, why should youlife cycle assessment of a building in a nutshell consider doing an LCA for your building?

Increasingly, investors, tenants, and other stakeholders are demanding transparency, especially when it comes to carbon footprint and other environmental impacts. LCA provides this transparency.

Secondly, investors almost universally require applying for a green building certification system like BREEAM or LEED, which assign a significant value to the use of LCA.

Finally, if you are interested in implementing corporate environmental policies, LCA is the most reliable way to quantify the supply chain carbon of your construction materials and processes, the so-called Scope 3 emissions.

What do you need to calculate an LCA for your building?

The good news is that you only need data you most likely already have: the calculated energy performance of the building and the bill of materials from building models or other sources you are planning to use at this design stage.

With One Click LCA, you do not need to be an LCA expert to calculate your LCA. You can simply import your data as it is.

How does the process work in practice?

Automated LCA takes only 3 easy steps:

  1. Import your design data from Building Information Models (BIM), energy models (gbXML), or even Excel spreadsheets
  2. Your data is automatically transformed to LCA results in compliancy with your chosen certification scheme
  3. Analyse the results to identify the most meaningful improvement opportunities to deliver even better project

Once you have your LCA report you can immediately see which are the hotspots of your building when it comes to carbon footprint and intervene to fix those issues.

You will then be able to track the progress of your building and immediately check which design options would help to reduce your building’s environmental impact.

Non-automated LCA is a process that takes weeks or even months, but with One Click LCA you can generate your ready to use LCA report in just a few minutes. Since it is cloud-based, your whole team can check the results and intervene on the hotspots, and you can update your data simply by logging in online.

In short, Life-Cycle Assessment doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming, or inefficient. It is the easy, fast, reliable, and cost-efficient answer to build greener buildings and that´s why it has become so relevant in the industry and why you need to know about it too.

 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 711303.

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