How can BIM add value to Life-cycle Assessment?

How can BIM add value to Life-cycle Assessment?

LCA (Life-cycle assessment) is a factual analysis of a product, structure or a building’s entire lifecycle in terms of sustainability. This involves an examination of every aspect of the building from the extraction and transport of materials, to the production of building components or construction of the structure to its demolition. The relevance of LCA in today’s environmentally conscious society is significant, especially for the construction sector which is already responsible for 39% of the world’s total carbon emissions. In the current article we will be looking at the importance of LCA in the construction sector and how could modern technology like BIM, Facility Management, Scan to BIM Services, etc. can add value to it.

Potential of LCA in the construction industry:

LCA in the construction sector is applicable at two areas: one is for manufacturing of components and secondly for evaluation of the complete building design scenario. It means taking into account the quantities of materials used, the architectural design choices made etc. LCA can also be used for identifying the potential impact of various building components used for prefabrication, its materials, the energy consumed for its production and so forth. Finally, in the execution and operation stage it considers the eco-responsible repairs, proper updating of products for better energy consumption etc. LCA can help understand the environmental impact of the building in its entirety through its lifecycle.

How is LCA conducted?

LCA is a standardized method which lends reliability to the whole process. According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) there are four stages of LCA:

1. LCA goal & scope definition: It refers to the objective or the reason for conducting LCA. It must include a proper definition of the product, system or a structure, its lifecycle and description of the system boundaries.

2. Inventory analysis of extractions and emissions: This includes all the environmental inputs and outputs associated with the object or building in question. Input for example could be the raw materials that are used and output could for example be emissions by the building’s MEP systems.

3. Impact assessment (LCIA): Based on the goal and the analysis conducted in the first two steps here the building’s or a product’s impact is calculated. The impact could be reflected in single score to show the sustainability or it could provide different scores across different areas of measurement.

4. Interpretation: Here it is checked that the final conclusions drawn are well-substantiated. Based on the interpretation the stakeholders can make informed decisions.

Importance of LCA:           

LCA provides designers, architects, engineers valuable information that would allow them to better understand the environmental impact of their design and explore alternative options if needed. Companies today can use LCA to demonstrate their designs impact on environment. It could also be useful as an eco-label wherein a certain score is essential for any product to be rolled out into the market or for any building to be constructed. It could be useful in providing correct, reliable and standardized information to the consumers and clients.                           

BIM and LCA:

BIM is a data-rich 3D model which provides all the requisite information about the building design and its various components. The intelligent 3D model can thus allow LCA to be performed in the digital mode itself. With all the information right at the finger tips it would become extremely easy and timesaving to conduct inventory analysis. For examples: MEP BIM Servicescan be used to get an idea of how much greenhouse gases will be emitted by the building’s MEP systems. BIM can also be used to make easy changes in the building design and see the effect on the LCA. Even during the later stages of the building’s lifecycle LCA can be useful in association with Scan to BIM and facility management to carry out effective repair works and manage the building systems more effectively.

Thus to conclude life-cycle assessment is a robust and scientific tool which can measure the environmental impact of the buildings and products. On top of that by integrating LCA into the digital model it becomes possible to create environmentally efficient systems and buildings.

Written By:
Dhvani Badheka
Dhvani is an irreverent writer who has over 4 years of experience under her belt. She is a life-long learner and a quick study which provides her articles a unique insight. She is always reading, researching new materials and trying to expand her knowledge of the AEC industry so that she can create interesting and valuable content.

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