Several organizations have developed computer-based modeling tools that attempt to qualify the potential environmental impacts and performance of various building materials. These models are generically known as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tools. LCAs have been developed to help user choose the most environmentally friendly building materials and building designs. These tools have been used primarily by architects, designers, product manufacturers, and builders and engineers in the commercial building industry.
To date, there has been no systematic effort to examine the general validity of these tools or their applicability and utility for the residential building industry. Given the potential importance of these tools for America's homebuilders, HUD commissioned the NAHB Research Center to convene a meeting of experts to thoroughly examine these issues.
This report presents a critique of LCAs, and offers suggestions on how they could be made more useful. The results suggest that LCA tools are not ready, and may not be ready for some time, for homebuilders to use as a practical resource.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of Policy Development and Research
451 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20410
NAHB Research Center, Inc.
400 Prince George's Blvd.
Upper Marlboro, MD 20774