Why is LCA useful?

LCA is useful for companies undertaking building projects, product manufacture, and more generally in business operations as it provides balanced information about the environmental impacts of a product or process that can assist when making decisions about product selection. 

LCA practitioners and the clients of LCA services frequently acknowledge that their understanding of the life cycle impact of their product proved very different after they had conducted the study to their expectations. What they believe to be the case, prior to conducting the LCA, often turns out not to be true when all factors are accurately measured and taken into consideration. Often the issue that had concerned the producer proves relatively insignificant, but other aspects that seemed benign turn out to be significant – often the biggest impact is in their supply chain and simply purchasing feedstocks from a different supplier can provide significant reductions in impact.

The users of LCA for the building products and building sectors include:

  • Manufacturers who need to evaluate the environmental impact of their products and how they can be improved. They want to be able to advise builders and building designers how to use their products for optimal environmental performance. To do so they need to measure and understand the environmental impacts of their products in detail. An LCA provides this detailed information.
  • Policy analysts and researchers who want to know which materials and products and which buildings warrant most attention or have most potential for reduced environmental impacts and as a result, what instruments or initiatives could be taken to promote appropriate change most economically and competitively.  Of particular interest and concern is climate change and carbon emissions and mitigation, the largest proportions of which come (directly and indirectly) from industrial production in Australia   Only scope III life cycle carbon assessment can reveal this.
  • Developers of building design tools (e.g. ENVEST, LCA Design, BIM) want to incorporate LCA results into their tools enabling designers to optimise the environmental impact of buildings in concert with perfomance and cost considerations. 
  • Environmental assessment and Ecolabelling bodies want to use LCA to produce environmental product declarations (EPD, Type III environmental and Ecolabel standards (Type I, Ecolabelling) that use LCA to set criteria and thresholds for product certification. These are important ways for a manufacturer to present and validate the environmental impact of their product.
  • Green building rating organisations need LCA to underpin rigorous credits for materials selection and design integrated into full building operational performance.
  • Developers and users of LCA practitioner tools (e.g. SimaPro, GABI, TEAM, Earthster) need LCA data to drive their software services.