In a world where resources are becoming scarce and societies are realizing that the conveniences of modern life have a serious impact on the environment, it is becoming more important to analyse engineering designs and find ways to reduce humankind’s environmental burden.

 Life cycle assessment, or LCA, has become an accepted tool for performing these analyses and answering important questions about current topics of concern to the public, such as greenhouse gas emissions. Given its official name in 1991, life cycle assessment examines the full spectrum of processes associated with a product from the beginning to the end of its life. In construction industry, 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.

The use of LCA for buildings requires a set of guiding principles, which consider the unique character of each building design, complexity in defining systems, and related decisions.

LCA is relatively new to the building industry. As in any developing field, there is a great deal of confusion about LCA, which can inadvertently lead to misuse of LCA tools, techniques, and supporting data. Thus, there is a need for a clear working definition of LCA and related terminology to help build credibility for the methodology and make the building industry more receptive to this new way of evaluating their work.

  • Hsu, S., 2010. Life Cycle Assessment of Materials and Construction in Commercial Structures: Variability and Limitations (Master Thesis). MIT, Civil and Environmental Engineering.
  • Tillman, A.-M., Baumann, H., 2004. The hitch hiker’s guide to LCA an orientation in life cycle assessment methodology and application. Studentlitteratur, Lund, Sweden.
  • Georgia Institute of Technology, Bayer, C., Gamble, M., Gentry, R., Joshi, S., 2010. AIA guide to LCA Building in practice. The American Institute of Architects, Washington, DC 20006.


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