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Green Buildings and Life Cycle Assessment

An essential part of green building, life cycle assessment (LCA) offers an objective and consistent way to measure the environmental impact of all types of constructions and the materials from which they are made.

To ensure quality and comparability of LCAs, the construction industry has adopted a common format  – called an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for communicating these results.

Three types of LCA are:

  • ‘cradle to gate’ assessment: Reporting on the significant environmental impacts associated with a product.  While the scope of an LCA may vary, a products’ manufacture will always be included.
  • ‘cradle through construction':  taking into account transport of the product from the factory to the construction site and its incorporation into the building works.
  • ‘cradle to grave’ assessments: extending the assessment to include maintenance, refurbishment and eventual recycling or disposal.

Two types of LCA exist for construction products.  There is a generic assessment that collates data from several manufacturers of the same product to create an industry average, and a propriety assessment which uses information from a single manufacturer so that the LCA is specific to that manufacturer’s product.