In Practice: Operationalizing Life Cycle Assessment for Design Teams

Oct 02, 2020

To quantify and reduce their environmental impact, building industry professionals are rapidly adopting life cycle assessment (LCA) tools. However, before LCA is adopted in practice as a routine part of the design process, three gaps must be addressed – the knowledge gap of understanding upstream emissions from other economic sectors, the communication gap of effectively conveying LCA study results, and the method gap of matching LCA tools to design team needs. This paper presents a meta-analysis of forty-nine recent LCA studies completed by the Miller Hull Partnership in pursuit of carbon-sequestering design, and describes lessons learned in traversing the knowledge, communication, and method gaps in order to embed LCA in the design process. Our experience demonstrates three possible strategies – the knowledge gap can be closed when practitioners engage with professionals in adjacent sectors in interdisciplinary research; the communication gap can be closed when design teams leverage replicable data collection and visualization tools; and the method gap can be addressed by deliberately framing LCA studies as iterative hotspot analyses rather than retroactive, static performance studies.

Keywords: Whole Building Life Cycle Assessment, Embodied Carbon, Biogenic Carbon, Data Visualization

Alex Ianchenko (The Miller Hull Partnership)
Brie Jones (The Miller Hull Partnership)
Presented at: 
2020 AIA/ACSA Intersections Research Conference: CARBON
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The American Institute of Architects (AIA)
Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA)

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