Design in a Time of Uncertainty
By Rives Taylor, Principal, Global Resilience Research Lead
As part of HARC’s integrated design approach and commitment to minimize the ecological impact of building-related materials and activities, our new green building was one of the first in Texas to be subjected to a whole building life cycle Assessment (LCA). LCA is a systematic analysis and quantification of the environmental aspects (including energy) of all the inputs and outputs associated with the raw materials, manufacturing, transport, use, and ultimate reuse, recycling, or disposal of a product or system. As part of the design and construction of HARC’s green building, HARC leadership worked with Walter P. Moore and their Director of Sustainable Design, Dirk Kestner, to utilize LCA from the very outset of the building design process.
The LCA process enabled HARC and the design and construction team to identify and quantify the environmental impacts of various materials and construction options so that better decisions were made. For example, concrete (specifically the Portland cement constituent) was found to be the largest contributor to the building’s embodied environmental impact. This led the design and construction team to specify a steel-frame structure, reducing the amount of cement utilized on the project, and to require concrete suppliers to provide Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and the utilization of low-carbon concrete on site. The simple changes, understood early on in the process, saved 300,000 pounds of CO2 emissions and resulted in impressive reductions in the building materials’ global warming (20%), acidification (25%), and smog formation (15%) potentials.
Walter P. Moore has featured their LCA work on our HARC building as part of their Stewardship Report.
The HARC LCA has also been included as a case study in the Architectural Record - Continuing Education Center learning unit on LCA: PeoplePromoting Sustainable Design Through Life-Cycle Assessment Applications
LCA is an invaluable tool that helped us move our sustainability practices into action during the construction and design of our building. In the October issue of the HARC Newsletter, we will examine LCA in more depth when we look at HARC’s LCA research on the comparative environmental and economic impacts of different energy technologies. The research will scrutinize different fuels, power generation technologies, and waste and emissions reduction strategies, along with associated of energy production, efficiency, and management policies.