Life-Cycle Assessment

Photo: Duncan Rawlinson. License: CC BY 2.0.


Life-cycle assessment, or LCA, is the science of quantifying environmental impacts through the entire process of creating, transporting, using, and disposing of a product or material. The methods are well developed, but there are blind spots.

The creator of life-cycle assessment famously stated, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” That’s important to keep in mind as you attempt to compare the impacts of two different building designs or two different products.

These resources about LCA help explain:

  • what types of data are usually reliable in an LCA

  • how to get the info you need from an environmental product declaration

  • where LCA can go wrong

  • the politics of LCA and how it relates to product and building certifications
  • Whole-Building Life Cycle Assessment: Promises and Pitfalls


    Whole-building life-cycle assessment (WBLCA) promises improved performance with reduced environmental impacts. Yet in practice it can bog projects down with confusing or even conflicting priorities, complicated by mountains of data.

    BuildingGreen has arranged for four widely respected practitioners to share their LCA expertise, taking you from big-picture questions—Why should I worry about embodied impacts?—to practical details—How can I get good data on my building's concrete mix?