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Life Cycle Assessment

Global perspective on Building Energy use and Environmental Impact

This research investigates the relationship between energy use, geographic location, life cycle environmental impacts, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The researchers studied worldwide variations in building energy use and associated life cycle impacts in relation to the LEED rating systems. A Building Information Modeling (BIM) of a reference 43,000 ft2 office building was developed and situated in 400 locations worldwide while making relevant changes to the energy model to meet reference codes, such as ASHRAE 90.1. Then life cycle environmental and human health impacts from the buildings’ energy consumption were calculated.

The results revealed considerable variations between sites in the U.S. and international locations (ranging from 394 ton CO2 eq to 911 ton CO2 eq, respectively). The variations indicate that location-specific results, when paired with life cycle assessment, can be an effective means to achieve a better understanding of possible adverse environmental impacts as a result of building energy consumption in the context of green building rating systems. Looking at these factors in combination and using a systems approach may allow rating systems like LEED to continue to drive market transformation towards sustainable development, while taking into consideration both energy sources and building efficiency.

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