Life Cycle Assessment: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Life Cycle Assessment

1st Edition

By Kathrina Simonen


182 pages | 98 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2014-04-11
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Life Cycle Assessment addresses the dynamic and dialectic of building and ecology, presenting the key theories and techniques surrounding the use of life cycle assessment data and methods.

Architects and construction professionals must assume greater responsibility in helping building owners to understand the implications of making material, manufacturing, and assemblage decisions and therefore design to accommodate more ecological building. Life Cycle Assessment is a guide for architects, engineers, and builders, presenting the principles and art of performing life cycle impact assessments of materials and whole buildings, including the need to define meaningful goals and objectives and critically evaluate analysis assumptions.

As part of the PocketArchitecture Series, the book includes both fundamentals and advanced topics. The book is primarily focused on arming the design and construction professional with the tools necessary to make design decisions regarding life cycle, reuse, and sustainability. As such, the book is a practical text on the concepts and applications of life cycle techniques and environmental impact evaluation in architecture and is presented in language and depth appropriate for building industry professionals.


‘Assistant professor of architecture Kathrina Simonen writes on the practice of life cycle assessment, authoring the handbook that she herself sought while wrestling with pressing questions of building, environment and quantification. Simonen positions LCA as an ‘emerging discipline,’ contextualizes LCA within its strengths, weaknesses and limitations, and dispels for the architect any attempt to idealize the practice. She translates what oft appears as a confounding method with concise and accessible language, case studies, didactic diagrams, and the aplomb to continuously remind us where methods require refinement, debate and consensus. An architect who has intuitively uttered the phrase ‘embodied environmental impacts’ in relation to a building, component or material - one who has desired a way of knowing environmental impacts more fully - will find herein a thorough discussion of the topic and description of the method. Simonen’s handbook is timely and necessary as the building industry self-organizes to adopt environmental assessment methods pervasively and proactively for design decision making.’ - Billie Faircloth, KieranTimberlake

'Professor Simonen expertly bridges the gap between the practices of building design and life cycle assessment and her book is another testament to that. It gives comprehensive guidance to understanding and implementing LCA from a uniquely US architect's perspective.' - Frances Yang, Structures and Sustainability Specialist, Arup

Table of Contents

1. Life Cycle Assessment Introduction 1. LCA: Environmental Accounting 2. LCA: Strengths and Weaknesses 3. LCA in the Building Industry 2. Life Cycle Assessment Fundamentals 1. LCA Goal 2. LCA Scope 3.Inventory Analysis 4. Impact Assessment 5.Interpretation 3. Environmental Impacts 1. Acidification 2. Climate Change 3. Eutrophication 4. Ozone Depletion 5. Smog Formation 6. Human Health and Eco-toxicity 7. Resource Use and Depletion 8. Consumption of Fresh Water 9. Waste Generation 10. Material Re-use and Recycling 4. LCA Data 1.Inventory Input: Material & Energy 2. Inventory Emissions: Unit Process Data 3. Inventory Emissions: Economic Input Output Data 4. Analysis: Attributional vs. Consequential 5. Analysis: Data Quality 6. Analysis: Allocation 7. Analysis: Calculation Methods 5. Life Cycle Assessment Standards 1. Critical Review 2. Comparative Assertions 3. Environmental Labels: EPDs and More 4. Building Industry Specific Standards 6. Methodological Challenges 1. Allocation: By-product, Co-product or Waste? 2. Allocation: Recycling Methodology 3. Allocation: Biologically Based Carbon 4. Uncertainty: Data Variability in Product LCA 5. Uncertainty: Variability in Whole Building LCA 6. Uncertainty: End of Life Assumptions 7. Implementing Life Cycle Assessment 1. LCA: Optimism, Pessimism & Perspective 2. LCA Resources Abbreviations Index (and reference to standard definitions) Bibliography

About the Author

Kathrina Simonen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Washington. Licensed as both an Architect and Structural Engineer, her research agenda stems from unresolved questions originated during over 15 years of professional practice. Her research topics include life cycle assessment (LCA) and practice innovations such as prefabrication, digital manufacturing, and alternative project delivery models. She is founding director of the Carbon Leadership Forum, an industry/academic research collaborative focused on linking the science of life cycle assessment to industry best practices in order to help enable quantifiable reduction of the environmental impact of the built environment.

About the Series


Technical Design Series

The design and construction of buildings and facilities is no small feat. It requires a great deal of technical knowhow. Building professionals utilize ‘rules of thumb’ to make many of these technical decisions, much of which is unwritten based on traditional approaches of adherence to cultural codes of practice and building regulations. Students and professionals in architecture, engineering and construction have little scientific or fundamental physics as a basis for these decisions. This lack of technical understanding and access to need-to-know information inevitably leads to inappropriate technical design decisions.

PocketArchitecture:Technical Design Series is intended to fill this void. It comprises succinct, easy to use, topic-based volumes that collate in one place unbiased, need-to-know technical information about a particular subject area.  This series demystifies the scientific basis for technical design solutions, illustrating how fundamental scientific theory has been used to develop both traditional and innovative construction techniques and practices.

Books within the PocketArchitecture:Technical Design Series each provide a ‘fundamentals’ section in which the underlying scientific theory relating to the topic is presented and an ‘applications’ section that describes how the scientific theory has been applied to technical design solutions. The highly illustrated ‘applications’ section explains the scientific basis for common technical design ‘rules of thumb’, for traditional and innovative construction practices and for relevant codes of practice and building regulations and comprises the majority of each volume.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Study & Teaching
ARCHITECTURE / Professional Practice
ARCHITECTURE / Sustainability & Green Design