Integrating building information modeling and life cycle assessment in the early and detailed building design stages


In the early building design stage, there are numerous uncertainties due to the lack of information on materials and processes. Designers therefore cannot quantify the environmental impacts of buildings in order to evaluate the environmental performance of their designs early on. In this paper, life cycle assessment (LCA) and building information modeling (BIM) are carried out in the early and detailed building design stages. The method is applied to a residential building in Québec, Canada. The BIM is conducted with Revit, and the LCA with openLCA. To prepare the Revit outputs as the appropriate inputs of the LCA model, a functional database was developed. It includes all building assemblies, layers and possible materials commonly found in residential buildings in Québec. The ecoinvent database was used to source of life cycle inventory (LCI) data for each material. To manage information uncertainty in the early design stage, a probability function was assigned to each material. At the detailed design stage, all material types and quantities were specified in BIM file, which was used in the LCA study. The environmental impacts of the building stages and assemblies were calculated to determine the best building assembly options from an environmental perspective—a process that could guide building designers in the environmental assessments of their designs, making it possible to select more sustainable materials for each assembly and thus reduce the environmental impacts of the building.


The Introduction to Life Cycle Assessment online course will teach you about life cycle thinking, how to embrace a systems view, and how to calculate and interpret the environmental footprint of a product, service or technology.