A transparent, interactive software environment for communicating Life-Cycle Assessment results: An application to residential windows

Norris G A, Yost P (2001)

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Journal of Industrial Ecology 5(4):15-28


Life-cycle assessments (LCAs) can be used to support the selection of environmentally preferable building materials. But the dominance of the usage phase in the life cycle of building materials represents a special challenge for two reasons. First, many aspects of a building material’s usage phase can be context specific. Second, the LCA outcome may rest on a building material’s service life, a parameter for which there is typically insufficient information for proper determination. For example, in the selection of a window, important usagephase, context-specific factors that could be determinant include lo-cation/climate, heating-system characteristics (efficiency and fuel), and product durability. A prototype software tool, the Life Cycle Explorer, has been developed that enables decision makers to assess the relative importance of literally dozens of such influential parameters in determining the outcomes of LCA evaluations for building components. The software employed by the Life Cycle Explorer permits extensive layering while maintaining ease of browsing, with the intent of accessibility to both the layperson and the expert. An initial application of the tool addressed residential window selection; the design principles of the software are relevant to the communication phase of a wide variety of LCA and industrial-ecologyrelated modeling projects.

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