There are many factors that must be considered before evaluating claims that one or another building type or product offers a better environmental return. To understand the full environmental impact of a structure over decades of use, all phases, starting before construction and continuing through demolition, must be considered. Life cycle assessment (LCA) seeks to quantify the environmental impacts over the infrastructure life cycle by identifying the costs during each phase.
LCA can be used to obtain credits in certification systems like LEED, but traditional LCA methods can be time, resource, and data intensive. For complex systems like residential buildings, these demands can lead to delayed assessments with evaluations carried out after important design decisions have already been made, reducing their effectiveness. CSHub researchers have developed a streamlined approach to LCA that requires significantly less time and data, which can reduce expense as well as uncertainty and allow assessments to be conducted earlier in the building design process when decisions can have the greatest impact.
Related Research Briefs
- Air leakage has strong influence on building life cycle impacts (May 2017)
- Streamlined Life Cycle Assessment of Buildings (February 2016)
- Streamlined Embodied LCA of Residential Buildings (June 2015)
- Streamlining Residential Building Energy Models (January 2015)
- Urban Physics: City Texture Matters (October 2014)
- Streamlined Energy Modeling of Residential Buildings (June 2014)
- Views on LCA from Buildings Experts (July 2013)
- Critical Issues When Comparing Whole Building and Building Product Environmental Performance (October 2016)
- Revised Report: LCA for Residential Buildings: Literature Review & Gap Analysis (October 2016)
- The Decision-Making Process in the Design of Residential Structures (May 2015)
- Methods, Impacts, and Opportunities in the Concrete Building Life Cycle (August 2011)
- LCA Interim Report (December 2010)
- Taking the life-cycle perspective: Report addresses critical issues in building practices (MIT News, October 2016)
- Long-term costs must be considered in building Chicago's skyline (Chicago Business Journal, October 2016)
- Improved buildings could make a big dent in climate change (MIT News, August 2011)
Related Peer-Reviewed Publications
- Tecchio, P., Gregory, J., Olivetti, E., Ghattas, R., and Kirchain, R. "Streamlining the Life Cycle Assessment of Buildings by Structured Under-Specification and Probabilistic Triage" Journal of Industrial Ecology (2018).
- Hester, J., Gregory, J., Kirchain, R. "Actionable insights with less data: guiding early building design decisions with streamlined probabilistic life cycle assessment"The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (2018).
- Rodrigues, C., Kirchain, R., Freire, F., Gregory, J. "Streamlined environmental and cost life-cycle approach for building thermal retrofits: A case of residential buildings in South European climates" Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 172, 20 January 2018, Pages 2625-2635 (2018).
- Hester, J., Gregory, J., Kirchain, R. "Sequential early-design guidance for residential single-family buildings using a probabilistic metamodel of energy consumption." Energy and Buildings, Volume 134, 1 January 2017, Pages 202-211
- Kirchain, R., Gregory, J., Olivetti, E. "Environmental life-cycle assessment." Nature Materials, 16 693–697 (2017)
This webinar was presented on August 17, 2017. Click here for a list of upcoming webinars and additional webinar videos.