EC3 Links Whole-Building Life-Cycle Assessment to Products
Whole-building life-cycle assessment (WBLCA)—a way of calculating the environmental impacts of buildings based on the materials used—is a growing area of interest for the building industry, thanks in part to rating systems like LEED and the Living Building Challenge. But there’s a trove of data it doesn’t account for.
Most current WBLCA tools use generic averages for materials because that’s the most reliable data available. Yet manufacturers are increasingly releasing environmental product declarations (EPDs) for specific products, reporting their environmental impacts in a way that could theoretically be used for WBLCA.
The Embodied Carbon Construction Calculator, or EC3, digitizes these EPDs, making them more accessible to project teams so the EPDs can aid design. For example, if one brand of concrete has a lower carbon footprint than another brand, teams will be able to take that into account and specify the one with lower impacts, reducing the overall carbon footprint of the building.
Users can enter data manually, but EC3 can also import an entire bill of materials from Revit—either through the Tally WBLCA software (a Revit plug-in) or through the BIM 360 feature.
The newly digitized data comes with a big caveat, though. “Even within the same product category, EPD comparisons are not precise, with uncertainties in the 20%–40% range quite common,” notes the project website. “EC3 sorts materials by the value we are 80% confident in.” Hence, when you look at results, they are shown as a range—often overlapping among different brands. “We believe the results to be directionally useful and impartial,” the website continues, “but precision depends on further disclosure by manufacturers.”
The database was conceived of by Skanska USA and developed by the Carbon Leadership Forum and C Change Labs, with support from Microsoft and many other partners. It is a free online tool.
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Published November 21, 2019 Permalink