The Athena Institute offers the only LCA-based tools in North America for whole buildings and assemblies. Athena has the most in-depth, complete and robust LCA databases for North American construction materials.
Athena software tools provide a user-friendly mechanism for designers to access the LCA databases and quickly estimate footprint of a building assembly or a whole building. The Athena team is continually updating databases to include new products and systems. Existing data is periodically replaced as it ages, to reflect changes in manufacturing processes. The software tools are re-released about every six months with data updates and software improvements. Please see our Software and LCI Database pages for details.
Product manufacturers that wish to be represented in Athena software and databases engage the Athena team to perform an LCA study. This is usually done as an industry average for commodity materials such as concrete, lumber, gypsum, etc. Athena additionally develops LCA profiles for generic construction assemblies and systems such as trusses, pre-cast panels, and pre-engineered buildings. To date, the Athena Institute has developed over 300 LCI/LCA studies on construction materials and products, making it possible for the Athena databases and software to address more than 95% of core and shell construction systems. All of our LCA work is in accordance with the ISO 14040 series of standards.
Maintenance of Athena materials databases is often supported by research contracts from industry. However, updating the life cycle inventory data for construction systems and processes, for demolition and end-of-life processes, for missing materials and systems not otherwise funded, and for improvements in the software tools themselves requires support from Athena membership fees and from research grants. This core support enables Athena to move its data and tools to the next generation of construction sector demands.
Software activity at Athena also includes customizing Athena tools for use within green rating programs and building codes. For example, the EcoCalculator for Assemblies was originally developed for the Green Building Initiative, as a tool for securing LCA-based points in Green Globes™.
Internationally, the Athena Institute is involved in the Sustainable Building Challenge process, in the SETAC/UNEP Life Cycle Initiative, and with the International Initiative for Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE). In the US, Athena experts have been major proponents of, and contributors to, the US LCI Database, the start-up of which was facilitated by the Athena Institute in 2002. In 2010, the Athena team was engaged to update the “LCI Data Submission Requirements” for the US LCI Database and worked with the National Renewable Energy Lab (the organization managing the database) on a process for automating the updating of key electricity generation profiles on a state, regional, and North American basis.