Life Cycle Analysis – Impact Estimator Training Course

Wendy C. MacdonaldWendy C. Macdonald has arrived back in the Advicas office after an exciting trip to Vancouver to attend Athena Sustainable Materials Institute’s Impact Estimator Training Course on June 14, 2016. Now she’s all chatty about Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and how well it fits with our cost estimating and Life-Cycle cost analysis (LCCA) services.

But wait – you ask – what’s the difference between LCA and LCCA? (One measly letter, right? Wrong.)

You are probably already familiar with, and may have even hired Advicas to perform Life Cycle Costing Analysis (LCCA). This is when we talk about things like costs over the life of the building, payback periods, and Net Present Value.

Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is more environmentally focused and looks at the environmental footprint a material, product (or building!) has over its entire lifetime.

Wendy came away from this workshop with this great quote:

LCA people are essentially accountants of environmental destruction, which makes it even less appealing than being an actual accountant. At least those guys deal with lots of money all day.

🍂 Chris Koffler, 2016

Wendy is not so keen on being an accountant of environmental destruction (!) but figures there are likely some great opportunities for analysis to show how cost and green can align.

Doing LCA starts by generating a project’s Bill of Materials (e.g., list and amounts of the raw materials in a building). Each material has an environmental inventory that looks at the environmental impacts, from cradle-to-grave (harvest to landfill) of that material. Analyzing what materials go into a building can help a team make design decisions regarding what materials and construction type are the best for the environment.

Playing around with materials, of course, can have trade-offs. For example, there are more CO2 emissions associated with the manufacturing, transport, and disposal of adding more insulation, but since more insulation results in less energy consumption over the life of the building, likely the benefits outweigh the CO2 “cost.” In a way, you could even look at the CO2 payback period of adding more insulation… so conceptually LCA and LCCA do have a lot in common.

We’d be looking specifically at the LCA impact indicators called for in LEED v4’s Materials & Resources: Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction credit:

🍂 Global warming potential
🍂 Ozone depletion potential
🍂 Acidification potential (re: acid rain)
🍂 Eutrophication potential (excess nutrients in lakes and water bodies which can lead to algae blooms and animal deaths)
🍂 Formation of tropospheric ozne (photochemical oxidant formation)
🍂 Depletion of nonrenewable energy resources (fossil fuels)

Want to find out more? Just ask! We’re looking forward to using this great tool to help make a project more sustainable!

Pro-tip: Reducing CO2 emissions is so important right now that lowering CO2 from building construction is as important (or more!) than reducing the operating energy of the building. This is worth thinking about when looking at retrofit vs. new-build. Consider including LCA as a requirement of your next feasibility study.

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