September 15, 2017
The Athena Institute completes a pilot test for whole-building LCA benchmarking
Embodied impacts like carbon are increasingly gaining attention in green building policy and programs globally. As incentives and regulations to reduce embodied impacts emerge, so too does the need for a robust benchmarking system.
A benchmark is a reference point for comparison. We’re developing a novel, standardized method to create life cycle assessment (LCA) performance benchmarks for new buildings.
In our approach, creating an LCA benchmark for a new building design project is a three-step process. First, define a “benchmark building” – a building that is an appropriate comparison case for the new project at hand. Next, conduct LCA on the benchmark building to provide target performance values for LCA impacts such as embodied carbon. Finally, conduct LCA for the proposed building and compare the results to the benchmark building.
This is a complex problem. We’re working on key factors to ensure ease of use, comparability of results, and universal adoptability of our benchmarking approach by whole-building LCA software tools.
We recently completed a pilot test of this approach, using a set of ten multi-unit residential buildings in British Columbia, Canada. We performed cradle-to-grave LCA on each one and averaged the results, to produce benchmarks for six LCA metrics on a per square meter basis. This is the first effort in North America to provide publicly-available LCA-based benchmarks for buildings.
The Athena Institute gratefully acknowledges the financial support of BC Housing, as part of the Building Excellence Research & Education Grants Program, for this work.