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An overview of Building Life Cycle Assessment for the construction industry

Erica Terranova Uusimaa, Finland 0 Ratings 2 Discussions 0 Group posts

Posted by: Erica Terranova // We work to make Building Life Cycle Assessment easy and fast

What is LCA?

 

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 measure 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, and many other certifications
  3. It can be totally automated from existing design data allowing for cost-efficient benchmarking

 

Life Cycle Assessment Green Building credits

More and more of Green Building certification systems have understood the importance of reducing the emissions of a building over its whole life cycle, which is what the Life Cycle Assessment methodology is for, and they have included credits that require performing building life cycle analysis to calculate the embodied carbon and other environmental impacts as well as Life Cycle Cost.

However, this doesn’t mean that all certification schemes approach Life Cycle-based credits in the same way. The Embodied Carbon Review analyzes the way different certification schemes approach embodied carbon and life cycle impacts in construction and provides a complete picture of the state of embodied carbon reduction in construction worldwide. 

The business case for Building LCA

Regulations and demands from the market increasingly require agents in the construction industry to adhere to guidelines and achieve sustainability goals. 

Increasingly, Green Building schemes give more weight to credits based on Building Life Cycle Assessment. Most notably, BREEAM UK NC 2018 has ended up assigning up to 10 credits to the Mat 01 LCA credit. As buildings are responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions, it is essential to address their impact and promote Low Carbon Design. This is made especially efficient by the automation of Building LCA via the use of integrations and dedicated software.  

 

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