Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a standardised tool for evaluating the climate and environmental impact of a product or service over its entire life cycle.
With a thorough life cycle assessment we can evaluate the potential environmental impact of our architecture over the lifetime of the building, from extracting raw materials to demolition and potential recycling. At Arkitema, we integrate these analyses into our design process so we can identify areas where energy and resource efficiency could be improved, thereby reducing the climate footprint of the building and promoting environmental sustainability.
We see knowledge-sharing and digitalisation as an essential requirement if the industry is to succeed with the green transition. This will enable us to work with our customers and partners to make the right decisions at the right time, and make profitable and efficient use of our resources.
When we reduce the environmental impact of a building and increase its energy-efficiency through LCA, the project can remain relevant for many years and meet future standards for sustainability. This can prolong the life of the project and minimise the need for future modifications and updates.
How we work with LCA
When we use LCA on a project, it is important to us to obtain data that helps to give a true and fair picture of the climate and environmental impact that a project will have. That is why we look at existing projects that we have run and at official databases such as LCAbyg.
Arkitema’s LCA specialists are leaders in their field and have the most up-to-date knowledge of LCA. Many of them teach LCA at Molio, the Danish Association of Architectural Firms (Danske Ark) and the Green Building Council Denmark (Rådet for bæredygtigt byggeri), with a view to spreading knowledge of LCA in the industry. Our LCA specialists have also helped to train sustainability coordinators within Arkitema.
These sustainability coordinators are part of all our project teams, so they are very close to the projects. Their role is to embed knowledge and promote solutions for LCA and sustainability in the projects, and to exploit the digital tools that we use for this.
In any given project, we use life cycle analyses from the very first outline proposal right through to implementation, and we monitor the impact of the project to stay within the legal requirements and meet the customer’s green ambitions.
Repeated calculations through all phases
Right from the very early outline phases, some of the environmental impact of the building can be determined from its design, volume and choice of structural elements. Later on, design manuals are developed with more specific choices of materials both inside and outside. We use LCA through all phases so the impact of the building can be constantly monitored based on the knowledge gained and the decisions taken in the course of project.
In each phase, we produce an LCA based on our level of knowledge of the final design. That means that, even in our early volume studies, we can estimate the climate impact of the project from the geometry and the materials that have been chosen.
When the structural materials have been decided on, we can get even closer, and start even now to make informed choices which have a crucial bearing on the final life cycle analysis. With our LCAdesign tool, we can also make a quick assessment of the potential for optimisation and see the climate implications of the various choices, as described below. We do this throughout the project, thereby helping the client to make informed choices and produce the statutory LCA as we go forward.
We meet the enhanced requirements for life cycle analyses in the construction sector
LCA is increasingly used to document compliance with requirements and rules for sustainable construction. Governments all over the world have been adopting new laws to promote more sustainable building practice, so LCA is becoming a necessity for developers to obtain certification and approval for more green projects.
We are seeing a growing demand from consumers and businesses for more environmentally sustainable buildings. This makes life cycle analysis an important tool both for us as architects and for our customers, to demonstrate our engagement with the green agenda, differentiate ourselves from competitors and meet the needs of customers looking for more sustainable solutions.
LCA is a digitalised element of the work
At Arkitema we have therefore been working for a number of years to incorporate LCA into our design process, which means we are well prepared to conform to with the present and future rules. We have been developing several digital tools for just this purpose.
For example, we have been working closely with COWI to create LCAcollect, which is used throughout the industry to collect data for LCA reporting. We have also created LCAdesign, which is used across the Group to monitor the progress of LCAs throughout the design phase.
One of our principal tools is our own plug-in to the REVIT design software, LCAdesign, which enables our architects, engineers and builders to track the LCA figures in real time, as we design. We can then monitor the climate impact of even the smallest changes in a building project, allowing us to make informed decisions on design and environmental matters.
LCAdesign can be used from the early design phases, up to the project proposal. So we get a good idea of the LCA for the finished building early in the process. This makes for a smoother design stage with fewer iterations in the process and also gives us a head start on the documentation work in the later phases.
Arkitema and COWI have taken the initiative to develop a new digital data collection tool, LCAcollect, which can handle and gather data or LCA documentation for use in LCA calculations in a consistent and efficient way. LCAcollect makes the documentation as simple as possible while providing for standardisation and good data quality.
In the development process, we focused on creating a user-friendly LCA tool to lighten the administrative burden and provide an overview of the climate impact of a building project for both large and small companies. We believe it is vital for everyone to help with the green transition, which is why Arkitema and COWI have opened the doors to our development work on LCAcollect.
Among the projects for which Arkitema has produced LCAs are:
- Erlev Skole – one of the first “new” wooden schools in Denmark
- Engdraget – social housing built in wood in Slagelse
- Oksenøya Barnehage – new kindergarten built in wood in Oslo