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Last Updated: 3-2019
Purpose – Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) currently acts as the construction industry standard
method for assessing the potential environmental impacts of buildings throughout their life
cycle. The importance of evaluating the embodied impacts of buildings in the early design
stages is widely acknowledged, but the uptake of the LCA methodology in design practice by
non-LCA experts remains limited. The integration of BIM with LCA appears to be a way to
entrench the application of LCA in early design practice. The primary objective of this study
therefore is to show that a BIM-based assessment of embodied impacts can give designers
the freedom to focus on conceptual design while at the same time keeping track of the
potential effects of material and design decisions.
Methodology – To enhance the application of LCA in the early design stages, a user-friendly
application was developed that enables designers to quickly comprehend the embodied
impacts of their designs. The BIM-based LCA tool presented in this thesis, dubbed MPG-ENVIE,
enables an automated environmental impact assessment of the embodied effects of building
elements during the early design stages. Its functional requirements were established by a
combination of literature study and interviews with experts in the field of BIM and LCA. A case
study of a simple building design was presented in a way to apprise designers about the
workflow of the proposed BIM-LCA integration.
Findings – The application of the proposed BIM-based LCA approach to a case study showed
that it is possible to assess the embodied impacts of an early stage schematic design and
subsequently improve the building design based on the building elements contributing highest
to the total embodied impacts of the building. IFC extracts generated by Revit and SketchUp
could be interpreted and results were presented through an intuitive user interface in the
form of comprehensive tabular, graphical and plotted outputs.
Research limitations – Given the time frame of six months for completion of this thesis, it was
found to not be feasible to develop an application that could perform an environmental
impact assessment of a complete building. It was therefore decided to build the application
around two walling element typologies: (i) exterior load-bearing walls and (ii) interior nonload-bearing walls.
Originality – The novelty of the work presented in this thesis is to illustrate the important role
of integrating BIM and LCA at the early stages of design to evaluate the embodied impact of
building elements. MPG-ENVIE differs from earlier BIM-LCA integrated solutions in that its
workflow incorporates the IFC schema to extract BIM model input. At the same time, MPGENVIE provides visual guidance in the form of an intuitive interface which allows for
environmental hotspots to be identified by the user.