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

Life-Cycle Assessment

Deep Dives

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Quick Takes

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  • Life-Cycle Assessment: Tracing a Product's Impacts

    Primer

    Life-cycle assessment-accounting for all of the environmental impacts of a product from its manufacture to its disposal-is a simple concept, but using it to compare products in practice can be difficult.

Product Guidance

Unbiased information from our product experts helps you separate green from greenwash.


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Learning Resources

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  • The Product Transparency Movement: Peeking Behind the Corporate Veil

    Feature Article

    Manufacturers are offering more product information than ever, but how can we know what to trust?

  • The Urgency of Embodied Carbon and What You Can Do About It

    Spotlight Report

    Building materials emit massive amounts of carbon long before the lights go on. Here’s how thoughtful design can reduce global warming impact.

  • Whole-Building Life Cycle Assessment: Promises and Pitfalls

    Webcast

    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?

Just For Fun

Something weird happens every April at BuildingGreen...


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