Whole-Building Life Cycle Assessment: Promises and Pitfalls , 66 minutes

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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?

A more accurate picture of real environmental burdens than LEED?

Our panel will show you how to apply a WBLCA framework to:

  • quantify environmental impacts
  • use multiple metrics and life-cycle stages to reveal tradeoffs
  • gain a comprehensive view of the full life cycle
  • target areas for improvement

You'll also learn about LCA's limitations in differentiating between sourcing schemes and capturing health hazards in use.

Compare LCA tools

Wondering which software tools you can trust?

We'll compare four different software programs and then run a real building project through two different applications—Tally and Athena—and see how the results differ.

You'll learn the critical importance of accurately reflecting material quantities in your models, developing solid procedures for data handling, and working within the inherent uncertainty of model results.

Bonus: single-impact case study of an AIA Top Ten, LEED Platinum project

This webcast will show you how one award-winning project team calculated the embodied carbon from construction—and how the building saved more than ten years of operating energy over that of a standard building.



Co-founder of Siegel & Strain Architects, Larry has a 40-year background in sustainable design. A former General Contractor, in the early 1990’s he began to systematically research sustainable materials and construction methods, which led to a set of Green Guideline Specifications that was later incorporated into BuildingGreen’s GreenSpec Directory.

A popular speaker on materials and sustainability, Larry is a past board member of the Northern California Chapter of the USGBC, and currently serves on the board of the Ecological Building Network. His firm has won over 60 design and environmental awards for their projects including four Top Ten Project Awards from the AIA Committee on the Environment. 

Kathrina Simonen is an associate professor of architecture at the University of Washington and is licensed as an architect and structural engineer.

Her research is focused on environmental life cycle assessment (LCA), digital design and manufacturing, and prefabricated housing systems.  She is founding director of the Carbon Leadership Forum an industry-academic collaborative research effort focused on linking LCA to design and construction practice. She authored a handbook on LCA for building industry professionals, Life Cycle Assessment, which was published in 2014.

Frances Yang is a structures and materials sustainability specialist in the San Francisco office of Arup. She integrates her understanding of life cycle assessment (LCA), design for energy and the environment, and performance-based seismic design into her structural engineering work. She is an Arup global expert on LCA-based tools and embodied impacts of construction materials.  

Frances chairs the LCA working group of the ASCE Structural Engineering Institute Sustainability committee and vice-chairs the USGBC Materials and Resources Technical Advisory Group.  She has also authored articles for Design Intelligence and Environmental Design + Construction.

Mark Webster is a structural engineer for Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc. He has 25 years of experience in the design, analysis, and investigation of concrete, steel, masonry, and wood structures. His lifelong concern for the natural environment has led him to investigate the intersection of sustainability and structural engineering.

Mark has written and lectured on the practical measures structural engineers can take to improve the environmental performance of their designs and the life-cycle environmental impact of building structural systems. He is a founding member and past Secretary of the Structural Engineering Institute’s Sustainability Committee and past Chair of the USGBC Materials & Resources Technical Advisory Group.

Paula Melton is Managing Editor at BuildingGreen, Inc., where she writes feature articles, blog posts, and product reviews on a variety of sustainable design topics. With an MFA in creative writing and a background in both journalism and socially responsible marketing, she has been researching and writing about health and sustainability for more than a decade.