Building life cycle assessment in practice

An AIA guide to LCA

”LCA results can help answer numerous questions that arise during the design and construction of a green building. It can reinforce the decisions taken by architects by providing a scientific justification.”

Architects are increasingly interested in reducing the environmental impact of the buildings they design. Tools like energy modeling assist in predicting and reducing energy use in buildings. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is one of the best mechanisms for allowing architects and other building professionals to understand the energy use and other environmental impact associated with all the phases of a building’s life cycle: procurement, construction, operation, and decommissioning.

The output of an LCA can be thought of as a wide-ranging environmental footprint of a building — including aspects such as energy use, global warming potential, habitat destruction, resource depletion, and toxic emissions.

LCA is emerging as one of the most functional building and design assessment devices. This paper provides clear guiding principles, specifically directed toward the architectural profession, in the use of building LCA to help architects understand and use LCA methodology as part of the design process. It identifies scenarios for the use of LCA in the design process and provides a set of proposed guidelines for the conductance of whole-building LCA.

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