Current at: 17 April 2011
Elements of lifecyle assessment (NAT)
Prior to reading this document, please refer to Principles of lifecycle assessment.
This information sheet has been prepared to provide members interested in life cycle assessment of buildings and building materials with information on things to consider in an assessment.
More details on Life Cycle Assessment and how it can be used is provided in HIA’s Information Sheet Principles of Life Cycle Assessment.
Where do you start?
An LCA study consists of four phases: goal and scope definition; Life Cycle Inventory analysis (LCI); Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA); and Interpretation, and the detail will vary depending on the information available and information sought by the client.
The setting of a goal and scope definition is usually undertaken with guidance from an LCA practitioner, to ensure that the International Standards Organisation standards 14040 and 14044 are adhered to and to ensure the client understands the type of information that will be reviewed and presented in the LCA report.
The strength and rigour of an LCA is dependent upon the accuracy and relevance of detail provided in the LCI phase, where energy, water and material flows into and out of the environment are quantified using a unit of measure for the material. This ensures data is collected and presented in a consistent manner. This data can be generated by a manufacturer or collectively for an industry and input into a database for use in LCA studies.
The LCIA phase is aimed at evaluating the contribution to environmental impact categories such as climate change, ozone depletion, acidification, eutrophication, resource depletion, habitat destruction, and human toxicity etc. The first step is termed characterization, where impact potentials are calculated based on the LCI results. It’s rare that a product or option scores better than others in all of the categories, so making decisions based on the LCA results may involve tradeoffs.
The Interpretation phase is a systematic technique to identify, quantify, check, and evaluate information from the results of the LCI and LCIA phases and determine the level of confidence in the final results and communicate them in a fair, complete, and consistent manner.
Australian LCI data
An important component of a rigorous LCA relies on access local data and until now Australian building product data has not been readily available. This has recently changed with the release of the Building Products Innovation Council – Building Products Life Cycle Inventory (BP LCI). The BP LCI provides two fundamental building blocks required for building product LCA work:
Methodology – the recommended methods for measuring and reporting the environmental impact of building products and using this data for Life Cycle Assessment of building products.
Database – the information required to conduct life cycle assessment of building products.
It is anticipated that the BP LCI will be: used by LCA practitioners performing LCA’s; incorporated into LCA software tools; incorporated in building design tools; and be used for environmental assessment by the operators of third party environmental accreditation schemes.
LCA’s can be a valuable resource, which when performed as a whole of life, whole of house LCA can provide the industry with information for strategies to reduce a home’s environmental impact.
For further information HIA members can contact HIA’s Building Services staff on 1300 650 620 or
If you would like to become a HIA member, contact 1300 650 620 or
The above is intended to provide general information in summary form. The contents do not constitute specific advice and should not be relied upon as such. Formal specific advice should be sought by members with respect to particular matters before taking action.