Assemblies are evaluated in terms of a range of performance measures, including global warming potential, primary energy, fossil fuel depletion, air and water pollution, and weighted resource use. Results show real-time changes as the inputs are adjusted—a function that allows different assembly options to be considered in light of their environmental impacts.

Performance matters

Because GBI has started to establish Green Globes as an official standard under the American National Standards Institute, the LCA tool has been reviewed by the institute's technical committee in preparation for its integration into the system. To a limited degree, the Green Globes system already incorporates LCA by rewarding its use in material selection.

The hope is that governments, green building organizations, and others will leverage the EcoCalculator for use in their own green-rating systems, programs, and policies and that it will help achieve goals related to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which many accept as a major contributor to global climate change.

While the green-building community has long recognized the value of LCA and encouraged its use, technology is at last making it possible for mainstream design professionals to streamline access to crucial data about building assemblies. This technology gives the public and private sectors the information they need to choose materials based not on their perceived effects but on their true performance.

This article originally was published in the April 2008 issue of ECO-STRUCTURE, TCP's sister publication.

Wayne Trusty is president of the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, Merrickville, Ontario, Canada. He can be contacted at or 613-269-3795.