AIA Guide to Building Life Cycle Assessment in Practice

Dec 01, 2010

As the architectural and construction industries increasingly emphasize sustainability, more comprehensive methods are being developed to evaluate and reduce environmental impacts by buildings. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is emerging as one of the most functional assessment tools; however, presently there is a scarcity of clear guiding principles specifically directed towards the architectural profession in the use of building LCA during the design process. In this paper, the authors are providing those guidelines to help architects understand and use LCA methodology as part of the design process by identifying scenarios for the use of LCA in the design process and providing a set of proposed guidelines for the conductance of whole-building LCA. The scenarios were developed by an extensive literature review of previously completed whole-building LCA case studies, architect interviews, and an evaluation of a set of North American and international LCA tools for use in the proposed scenarios. Additionally, the study shows an example of whole-building LCA of an institutional facility being designed in Georgia.
In this paper, the authors established a basic understanding about LCA for the building industry—particularly architects, the utility of LCA, and proposed guidelines/suggestions for conducting LCA. The state of research was reviewed to find answers to present limitations of use of LCA in practice.

Charlene Bayer (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Michael Gamble (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Russell Gentry (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Surabhi Joshi (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The American Institute of Architects

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