While environmentally responsible design and sustainable building practices have become increasingly prevalent in the design and construction industry, decision-making for building products and materials have historically focused on single attributes such as regional manufacturing, recycled content, or consisting of renewable materials or certified wood.
It used to frustrate me that there was not an efficient way to make holistic decisions about building products and materials that incorporated a range of factors, much like we can do regarding building operational energy and water usage. Until relatively recently, the industry has lacked an easily-accessible platform for whole-building life cycle assessment (LCA) – a tool that could integrate into a design team’s workflow and not require esoteric knowledge.
This is starting to change. We are now at the cusp of being able to leverage design performance modeling to conduct environmental impact assessments on whole buildings, manufactured building products, and material assemblies. Thanks to an emerging marketplace of user-friendly analysis tools, architects, engineers, and contractors can now leverage in-depth LCA analyses to compare building materials that both minimize a project’s environmental impact and are more efficient, durable, and valuable to building design and construction. Additionally, because LCA can now be used to earn the LEEDv4 Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction credit (via Option 4: Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment), it is increasingly being adopted and required by clients and project teams pursuing LEED certification.
There are a handful of platforms currently available.