A New LCA: 'Loud Call for Attention'

Life cycle assessment (LCA) discussions can be confusing and complicated. They are littered with acronyms, terms and definitions, and talk of things like raw material extraction. But there is one clear theme in every LCA discussion to which I've been privy: LCA is poised to change the way industries and companies do business. In the building industry, codes and standards will begin to seek life cycle information, and it will likely happen sooner rather than later (LEED version 4, set to launch at the end of 2013, includes an LCA component).

As Thomas Gloria, managing director of Industrial Ecology Consultants, said during the AAMA Summer Conference this week in Rosemont, Ill., "life cycle assessment is the hot topic of the building construction industry." Glass and glazing industry associations have teamed up to address LCA, but education and involvement is paramount on the part of industry companies as well. Given this, I offer an alternative LCA definition, with a 'Loud Call for Attention.'

If you've responded to the call, then I would first advise general education about life cycle assessments (and all the other acronyms that go with it). The LCA segment of this Glass Magazine code article can act as a good primer. Industry associations are another great source of information.

The second step would be to get involved, as stakeholder participation is critical. Gloria encouraged AAMA meeting attendees to "be engaged in the process. It is for you, and [affects] how you sell your products," he said. "Only through involvement can you make sure that the environmental performance assessment is fair."

A joint association task group has been diligently working over the past several years to develop product category rules for windows (PCRs are the tools necessary to measure life cycle). The task group is getting close to completing the task. As Rich Walker, AAMA president and CEO, said during the LCA Oversight Committee meeting, "we are on the 5 yard line, getting ready to score." However, the job of the industry isn't done. It is likely that we will need to continue to update and improve this initial PCR, and to develop addition PCRs for additional product types.

The third component of the call is for companies to begin to perform life cycle assessments at their own facilities. Don't wait for someone else to do it first. "There is business value and innovation in doing this," Gloria said. "It is risk mitigation. You are figuring out the things along your supply chain that you need to be aware of. And, the deeper aspect is stewardship—doing the right thing. Companies involved in LCA are engaging their employees across the board."

Beyond the business strategy, involvement and adoption of LCA is important for the industry in general. If LCA becomes a large part of codes and standards (as is expected), the industry needs to be able to deliver product eco-labels. If it can't, it's conceivable that architects or building owners may look for an alternative façade product type. 

Devlin is senior editor for Glass Magazine. Write her at kdevlin@glass.org.


The third part of the call is for organizations to start to execute life-cycle tests at their own features. Don't hold out for someone else to do it first. "There is business value and advancement In the building market, requirements and requirements will start to search for life-cycle information

from mightystudent.com