What is a Life Cycle Assessment?

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a technique that is widely used to understand the cradle-to-grave environmental impacts associated with all stages of a project’s life. Cradle-to-Grave refers to the whole life of any given product, starting at the material extraction stage, and will continue through to material processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance.

 

The materials and resources that are used throughout any development all have environmental, social and economic impacts beyond their construction and operational phases of a building. The process of an LCA involves collating all the materials and resources used onsite and quantifying the impacts that are associated with the stages of each component’s life. As a result, this gives the project team a holistic view of the developments impacts.

Through completing an LCA, built environment professionals can be presented with quantifiable and measurable information, and as a result, provide informed recommendations regarding how to improve the environmental performance of the development.

Benefits of completing an LCA

So, how exactly does this benefit the development and the design team? The LCA will provide information to both the embodied carbon and operational aspects of a development which allows for them to be improved upon.

LCAs are best utilised at an early stage in the design process as this is when key decisions are made. Perhaps the most useful outputs are:

  • Carbon Emissions – The global warming potential for each material is broken down by production, transportation, construction, maintenance, energy and end of life amongst other parameters.
  • Life Cycle Cost Data – LCAs give a high-level breakdown of the cost associated with a material – including the on-going maintenance costs. In addition, it can be aligned with a full elemental Life Cycle Costing.

For example, at an early stage your project may be debating over a concrete or timber frame. Conducting an LCA could help a project quantify the carbon emission and the cost therefore helping the decision process.

LCA assessments can achieve credits for BREEAM assessments, in fact under BREEAM New Construction 2018 certain material credits are only achievable by undertaking the analysis.

For more information on how Scotch Partners can assist with completing a Life Cycle Assessment for your project, or any other sustainability queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.