LCA is a standardized method for examining a broad range of environmental impacts associated with a process or a product over its complete life cycle. When applied to buildings, LCA includes the following:
- resource extraction
- manufacturing and transportation of materials and pre-fabricated components
- on-site construction
- building operations, including energy consumption and maintenance
- end-of-life reuse, recycling or disposal
Only the LCA of a building can provide estimates of the full range of environmental burdens such as embodied energy use and related fossil fuel depletion, other resource use, greenhouse gas emissions, and toxic releases to air, water and land.
An inclusive LCA of a building is a complex task best handled with computer modelling tools. In Canada and the U.S., the Athena Institute’s ATHENATM Environmental Impact Estimator is available to perform a full life cycle analysis at the whole building level.