The complex but vital area of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was the focus of a recent training program sponsored by the Metal Construction Association.
The August 20 session in Chicago drew close to 50 attendees and was
presented exclusively for MCA members by Jennifer Cooper and Jeff Yorzyk of
Five Winds International, a multidisciplinary
consulting firm specializing in working with clients on strategic
decision-making that considers a range of environmental, operational and
competitive factors related to sustainable development.
They describe LCA as an assessment
tool that considers the entire value chain involved in producing a product.
Creating an LCA for a product requires life cycle thinking, which Cooper and
Yorzyk say involves looking at quantifiable areas and evaluating the total
impact of a product on the environment.
In part, LCA’s increased
visibility was brought about by the US Green Building Council’s intent to
eventually award points in its LEED rating system for selecting construction
products or entire buildings whose LCA values meet a certain level. An LCA
calculation is generally based on an assessment tool that generates a single
numerical value for assemblies or entire buildings.
“At this point LCA is not going to necessarily
answer all the questions, but it will enable you to identify significant
environmental impacts, as well as benefits and priorities, and put you in a
better position to answer questions you may get about your products,” Cooper
told MCA members.
MCA Technical Director Scott Kriner organized this initial
session and identified a need for further work on the topic.
“Based on the very
positive response and obvious need for additional information we will move
forward on this program to bring LCA to the attention of our Sustainability
Committee and our Technical Committee. It is important for our industry and for
our members to get the correct data for the appropriate assemblies inventoried
in the databases used by the different LCA calculators. As an association we
need to identify the data that need to be collected and understand how the
information can be used before we launch into any LCA program for our members,”