ISSUE #5 May 2017 Lifecycle Assessments for Buildings

You may have heard it before, but the built environment accounts for 26% of global warming. But buildings are a complex beast and it can be hard to make sense of often interrelated and complex impacts. How helpful would it be to cut through it all and know what is having the biggest impact, and where to best spend the money.

At Sustainability House we have been always committed to helping our clients understand how their project could be improved and how to increase the performance of buildings.

This research is not limited to energy modelling- we aim to go beyond and provide our clients with practical options to inform the decision-making process. 
One way of doing this is to do a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) at the concept design stage. 

LCA is a recognized methodology that can deliver comprehensive data to decision-makers about the environmental burdens of projects during the entire life cycle, including embodied and operational impacts. It is a systematic, holistic, and objective method to evaluate the environmental impacts of a project, process or product.

LCA is increasingly being used in projects throughout Australia to make informed choices on environmental issues and trade-offs inherent in design decisions.

The results of the LCA will enable the design team to identify the initiatives, practices and purchases that will help the project to achieve the most effective environmental performance results.

It provides you with:

  • Early design advice and quantified results for concept design
  • Insight on the impact of operational and embodied energy across the whole building life cycle
  • Recognition of improvement opportunities
  • Points under the GBCA’s Green Star rating tools

We have found that LCA is a great tool to:

  • Benchmark your project before and after including sustainability initiatives
  • Motivate and drive innovation 
  • Assess the impact of different material selections
  • Market sustainability. Nothing better than to have some numbers to show your clients and being able to compare the impact of one initiative to another
  • Understand the savings in real terms- we can equate the savings to how many trees you have planted and how many cars you have taken off the road
  • Have a better understanding of operational vs embodied energy impacts of the project


Some quick tips on reducing life cycle emissions:

  • On-site generation (think Solar PV) makes a big difference
  • Dematerialization works- less really is more
  • Design for extended life- good design increases building time of use and gets the most out of the energy put into building it
  • Little things add up- there’s plenty of low-hanging fruit that adds up over the life cycle of a building

If you want to know more about what exactly is involved in an LCA and the benefits it could provide to your project, give us a call.

Aida Leon
ESD Consultant

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