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LCA in architectural design—a parametric approach

  • Alexander HollbergEmail author
  • Jürgen Ruth
BUILDING COMPONENTS AND BUILDINGS

Abstract

Purpose

Life cycle assessment (LCA) has not been widely applied in the building design process because it is perceived to be complex and time-consuming. There is a high demand for simplified approaches that architects can use without detailed knowledge of LCA. This paper presents a parametric LCA approach, which allows architects to efficiently reduce the environmental impact of building designs.

Methods

First, the requirements for design-integrated LCA are analyzed. Then, assumptions to simplify the required data input are made and a parametric model is established. The model parametrizes all input, including building geometry, materials, and boundary conditions, and calculates the LCA in real time. The parametric approach possesses the advantage that input parameters can be adjusted easily and quickly. The architect has two options to improve the design: either through manually changing geometry, building materials, and building services, or through the use of an optimization solver. The parametric model was implemented in a parametric design software and applied using two cases: (a) the design of a new multi-residential building, and (b) retrofitting of a single-family house.

Results and discussion

We have successfully demonstrated the capability of the approach to find a solution with minimum environmental impact for both examples. In the first example, the parametric method is used to manually compare geometric design variants. The LCA is calculated based on assumptions for materials and building services. In the second example, evolutionary algorithms are employed to find the optimum combination of insulation material, heating system, and windows for retrofitting. We find that there is not one optimum insulation thickness, but many optima, depending on the individual boundary conditions and the chosen environmental indicator.

Conclusions

By incorporating a simplified LCA into the design process, the additional effort of performing LCA is minimized. The parametric approach allows the architect to focus on his main task of designing the building and finally makes LCA practically useful for design optimization. In the future, further performance analysis capabilities such as life cycle costing can also be integrated.

Keywords

Architectural design process Optimization Parametric design Simplified LCA Sustainable building 

Nomenclature

I

Environmental impact

ED

Energy demand (kWh)

M

Mass (kg)

R

Number of replacements

RSP

Reference service period (of the building) (a)

RSL

Reference service life (of a building component) (a)

IF

Environmental impact factor

PF

Performance factor of a building service

PET

Total primary energy (MJ)

PERT

Total renewable primary energy (MJ)

PENRT

Total non-renewable primary energy (MJ)

GWP

Global warming potential for a time horizon of 100 years (kg CO2-eqv.)

EP

Eutrophication potential (kg R11-eqv.)

AP

Acidification potential (kg SO2-eqv.)

ODP

Ozone layer depletion potential (kg PO4 3−-eqv.)

POCP

Photochemical ozone creation potential (kg C2H4-eqv.)

ADPE

Abiotic resource depletion potential for elements (kg Sb-eqv.)

Subscript:

LC

Life cycle

O

Operational

E

Embodied

heat

Heating

env

Building envelope

pri

Primary structure

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study was carried out as part of the research project FOGEB, funded by the Thuringian Ministry for Economics, Labour and Technology and the European Social Funds (ESF), and the project “Integrated Life Cycle Optimization,” funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety through the research initiative ZukunftBau.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chair of Structural DesignBauhaus University WeimarWeimarGermany

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