Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a holistic approach to determining the total environmental impacts of a product or service from extraction of raw materials and processing, to distribution, use, and end of life. By translating input and output data into more environmentally relevant information, LCA can offer a window into the environmental performance of your product.


LCA can determine which materials or processes in your product's value chain most heavily contribute to such impact categories as global warming, acidification, and ozone depletion. LCA can also establish a benchmark for making improvements, and serves as the basis for creating your product's Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).

LCA Framework

Goal and scope: The plan for the LCA is defined in this first phase. The goal of the LCA includes the intended application, the reasons for the study, the audience, and whether the results are disclosed to the public. The scope defines the product to be studied, the functional unit, system boundaries, impact categories, and treatment of uncertainty.

Inventory Analysis: This phase of life cycle assessment involves compiling and quantifying inputs and outputs for a product through its life cycle.

Impact Assessment: During this phase, we aim to understand and evaluate the significance of the potential environmental impacts for a product system throughout the life cycle of the product. The fundamental element in impact assessment is the impact category. ISO defines it as a class representing environmental issues of concern to which life cycle inventory analysis results may be assigned.

Impact Categories

Interpretation: ISO defines the final step as the phase in which the findings of either the inventory analysis or the impact assessment, or both, are evaluated in relation to the defined goal and scope in order to reach conclusions and recommendations. Interpretation compares the data and results with previous findings, and putting the results in the context of decision-making and limitations. Interpretation is also devoted to a systematic analysis.

LEED Credits

Building product manufacturers have several new opportunities to get specified by contributing more points on projects under LEED v4. The life-cycle approach to Materials and Resources credits in LEED offer incentives for project teams to specify products from manufacturers that provide full transparency of their product's environmental performance. Building products with an LCA can contribute to LEED certification under LEED v4.

MRc2: Building Product Disclosure and Optimization:
Environmental Product Declaration (possible 2 points)

Intent: To encourage the use of products and materials for which life-cycle information is available and that have environmentally, economically, and socially preferable life-cycle impacts. To reward project teams for selecting products from manufacturers who have verified improved environmental life-cycle impacts.

Achieve one or more of the options below, for a maximum of 2 points.

OPTION 1. Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) (1 Point)

Use at least 20 different permanently installed products sourced from at least five different manufacturers that meet one of the disclosure criteria below. Product-specific declaration.

Products with a publicly available, critically reviewed life-cycle assessment conforming to ISO 14044 that have at least a cradle to gate scope are valued as one quarter (1/4) of a product for the purposes of credit achievement calculation.

Environmental Product Declarations which conform to ISO 14025, 14040, 14044, and EN 15804 or ISO 21930 and have at least a cradle to gate scope.

Industry-wide (generic) EPD - Products with third-party certification (Type III), including external verification, in which the manufacturer is explicitly recognized as a participant by the program operator are valued as one half (1/2) of a product for purposes of credit achievement calculation.

Product-specific Type III EPD - Products with third-party certification (Type III), including external verification in which the manufacturer is explicitly recognized as the participant by the program operator are valued as one whole product for purposes of credit achievement calculation.

USGBC approved program - Products that comply with other USGBC approved environmental product declaration frameworks.

Option 2: Multi-Attribute Optimization

Rewards projects that use at least 50 percent (by cost) of permanently installed products from manufacturers participating in an extended producer responsibility program, or adhering to another USGBC-approved program that will verify reductions in at least three of the following: