Life cycle assessment (LCA) is used to total up the environmental impact of a product’s supply chain. Providing sufficient data is available on the product’s composition and supply chain, LCA can be used to work out the environmental impact of almost anything, from a can of baked beans to a car. The results of the LCA are presented in an environmental product declaration (EPD).
In construction, more and more construction product EPDs are being published by manufacturers for their products. This provides a great source of data but, unlike with a can of beans, a bag of sand is not the final product, the building is. So using construction EPD in isolation to inform lower impact design is not going to be very effective.
For example, the nutritional information on food products are given per portion. It would not be useful if the label on a can of baked beans showed the energy, sugar and salt content of the separate raw ingredients: 1 m3 of beans, 1 tonne of tomatoes, 1,000 litres water, etc. This would provide nothing useful on the nutrition of a portion of baked beans because the can contains a cooked mixture of these ingredients in different proportions.
The same principle applies to buildings. EPDs are a great source of data but there is little benefit for a design team in knowing the environmental impact of individual construction products like 1 steel beam, 1 m3 of timber or 1 can of paint.
Building LCA is no different from an LCA on a can of beans, it just means the product undergoing LCA is a building. Building LCA tools are used to total up the environmental impact of the building, based on the environmental impact coming from the supply chain of the construction products it is made from (sometimes operational energy, operational water, future maintenance and demolition are also included).
The leading standards in construction LCA are clear that 'The purpose of an EPD in the construction sector is to provide the basis for assessing buildings…and identify those which cause less stress to the environment' – in other words, you need to do building LCA.
BREEAM agrees with the principle set out in the standards and has been introducing building LCA into its schemes since 2011 when two exemplary credits were included in BREEAM UK New Construction for building LCA. BREEAM International has included building LCA since 2013. More recently, the 2018 update of BREEAM UK New Construction completely replaced the old Green Guide approach with building LCA.
 Why not stick with the Green Guide?
The Green Guide avoids the problem of using construction product EPDs in isolation because it is based on choosing from a range of environmentally rated typical construction build-ups. Each construction build-up includes a typical arrangement of products for a building element (e.g. external walls, roofs, floors, etc.). As the name suggests, this provides a useful guide in selecting lower impact construction build-ups, but using the Green Guide does not offer the level of building specific accuracy now possible in building LCA.
 Why now?
Although building LCA standards have been available since 2011, BREEAM UK New Construction has continued to use the Green Guide (with building LCA included as an exemplary level achievement), because until recently, building LCA has been too specialist for most design teams.
Now that building LCA is better understood with greater traction and several suitable tools are available, BREEAM has fully embraced it within BREEAM UK New Construction 2018 – with the aim of enabling and encouraging the construction industry to rise to the challenge of further reducing the environmental impact of buildings.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Issue support documents
|These are Multiple Author Articles - click on them and add to them today. It's easy.|
You can also add to General Multiple Author Articles here
Issue support documents are written for named BREEAM Issues or sub-issues. More info. (ac) = awaiting content
|Thanks to our Knowledge Sharing Ambassadors for a lot of this content|
- BREEAM Sustainability champion
- BREEAM Environmental management
- BREEAM Considerate construction
- BREEAM Monitoring of construction site impacts
- BREEAM Aftercare support
- BREEAM Seasonal commissioning
- BREEAM Testing and inspecting building fabric
- BREEAM Life cycle cost and service life planning
- BREEAM Stakeholder consultation (ac)
- BREEAM Commissioning (ac)
- BREEAM Handover (ac)
- BREEAM Inclusive and accessible design (ac)
- BREEAM Post occupancy evaluation (ac)
 Health and Wellbeing
- BREEAM Visual comfort Daylighting (partly ac)
- BREEAM Visual comfort View out
- BREEAM Visual comfort Glare control
- BREEAM Indoor air quality plan
- BREEAM Indoor air quality Ventilation
- BREEAM Thermal comfort
- BREEAM Internal and external lighting (ac)
- BREEAM Indoor pollutants VOCs (ac)
- BREEAM Potential for natural ventilation (ac)
- BREEAM Safe containment in laboratories (ac)
- BREEAM Acoustic performance (ac)
- BREEAM Safety and security (ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of energy use and carbon emissions
- BREEAM Energy monitoring
- BREEAM External lighting
- BREEAM Low carbon design
- BREEAM Passive design
- BREEAM Free cooling
- BREEAM LZC technologies
- BREEAM Energy efficient cold storage (partly ac)
- BREEAM Energy efficient transportation systems (ac)
- BREEAM Energy efficient laboratory systems
- BREEAM Energy efficient equipment (partly ac)
- BREEAM Drying space
- BREEAM Public transport accessibility
- BREEAM Sustainable transport measures
- BREEAM Proximity to amenities
- BREEAM Cyclist facilities
- BREEAM Alternative modes of transport (ac)
- BREEAM Maximum car parking capacity
- BREEAM Travel plan
- BREEAM Home office (ac)
- BREEAM Water consumption
- BREEAM Water efficient equipment
- BREEAM Water monitoring (ac)
- BREEAM Water leak detection (ac)
- BREEAM Hard landscaping and boundary protection
- BREEAM Responsible sourcing of materials
- BREEAM Insulation
- BREEAM Designing for durability and resilience
- BREEAM Life cycle impacts (ac)
- BREEAM Material efficiency (ac)
- BREEAM Construction waste management
- BREEAM Recycled aggregates
- BREEAM Speculative floor & ceiling finishes
- BREEAM Adaptation to climate change
- BREEAM Operational waste (ac)
- BREEAM Functional adaptability (ac)
 Land Use and Ecology
- BREEAM Site Selection
- BREEAM Ecological value of site
- BREEAM Protection of ecological features
- BREEAM Minimising impact on existing site ecology
- BREEAM Enhancing site ecology
- BREEAM Long term impact on biodiversity (ac)
- BREEAM Impact of refrigerants
- BREEAM NOx emissions
- BREEAM Flood risk management (ac)
- BREEAM Surface water run-off (ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of night time light pollution (partly ac)
- BREEAM Reduction of noise pollution
Once an ISD has been initially created the '(ac)' marker can be removed
This particular index is based around the structure of the New Construction and RFO schemes.