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.
- MIT News: Concrete's role in reducing building and pavement emissions (September 2021)
- MIT News: Predicting building emissions across the US (September 2021)
- Building Life Cycle Assessment: Quantifying Building Life Cycle Environmental Impacts
- A Primer on Building Environmental Product Declarations and Life Cycle Assessment
- Leveraging streamlined building life cycle assessment and machine learning to determine critical and flexible building design parameters
Optimizing Building Life Cycle Environmental Impact and Cost (February 2020)
Streamlined Life Cycle Assessment of Buildings (February 2016)
- 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)
Vahidi, E., Kirchain, R., Burek, J., Gregory, J. "Regional variation of greenhouse gas mitigation strategies for the United States building sector." Applied Energy. Volume 30, 2021.
Gregory, J., AzariJafari, H., Vahidi, E., Guo, F., Ulm, F.J., Kirchain, R. "The role of concrete in life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of US buildings and pavements."PNAS. September 14, 2021 118 (37).
Tecchio, P. , Gregory, J. , Olivetti, E. , Ghattas, R. and Kirchain, R. (2019), "Streamlining the Life Cycle Assessment of Buildings by Structured Under‐Specification and Probabilistic Triage" Journal of Industrial Ecology, 23: 268-279.
Hester, J., Gregory, J., Ulm, F.J., Kirchain, R. “Building design-space exploration through quasi-optimization of life cycle impacts and costs” Building and Environment, Volume 144, 15 October 2018, Pages 34-44.
Tecchio, P., Gregory, J., Ghattas, R., and Kirchain, R. "Structured Under-Specification of Life Cycle Impact Assessment Data for Building Assemblies" Journal of Industrial Ecology (2018).
- 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)
Xu, X., Wildnauer, M., Gregory, J., & Kirchain, R. Accounting for Variation in Life Cycle Inventories: The Case of Portland Cement Production in the U.S., R.E. Kirchain et al. (Eds), REWAS 2016: Towards Materials Resource Sustainability, Springer AG.
Buildings Life Cycle Assessment
This webinar was presented on August 17, 2017.
Greener Buildings: A Streamlined Approach to Life Cycle Assessment
This webinar was presented on March 15, 2018.