2020 AIA/ACSA Intersections Research Conference: CARBON

In Practice: Operationalizing Life Cycle Assessment for Design Teams

Fall Conference Proceedings

Author(s): Alex Ianchenko & Brie Jones

In the context of ongoing anthropogenic climate change, the building sector bears a significant responsibility to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. To quantify and reduce their environmental impact, building industry professionals are rapidly adopting life cycle assessment (LCA) tools. However, before LCA is adopted in practice as a routine part of the design process, three gaps must be addressed – the knowledge gap of understanding upstream emissions from other economic sectors, the communication gap of effectively conveying LCA study results, and the method gap of matching LCA tools to design team needs. This paper presents a meta-analysis of forty-nine recent LCA studies completed by the Miller Hull Partnership in pursuit of carbon-sequestering design, and describes lessons learned in traversing the knowledge, communication, and method gaps in order to embed LCA in the design process. Our experience demonstrates three possible strategies – the knowledge gap can be closed when practitioners engage with professionals in adjacent sectors in interdisciplinary research; the communication gap can be closed when design teams leverage replicable data collection and visualization tools; and the method gap can be addressed by deliberately framing LCA studies as iterative hotspot analyses rather than retroactive, static performance studies.


Volume Editors
Corey T. Griffin & Erica Cochran Hameen