Environmental Building Declarations: Analyzing a Structure from Cradle to Grave

(The following is a news item from the Athena Institute)

The Design Building at U.Mass Amherst continues an emerging trend in sustainable building transparency

Design Building on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. (Credit: Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects Inc.)

The USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, in cooperation with US WoodWorks, engaged the Athena Institute to prepare an environmental building declaration (EBD) for the Design Building on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. This is a new four-story 87,573 square-foot home for three departments: Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, and Building Construction Technology. The cross-laminated timber building, designed by Leers Weinzapfel Associates Architects with structural design engineer Equilibrium Consulting, was completed in January 2017.

The EBD reports life cycle assessment (LCA) results in accordance with the standard EN 15978. The scope of the LCA is a cradle-to-grave analysis of the material effects of structure, envelope, and interior partition assemblies, and operating energy and water use, over a 60-year period.

An environmental building declaration is similar to an environmental product declaration (EPD) as a vehicle for transparent reporting of measured environmental (LCA) performance data. The manufacturing community is quickly getting on board with EPDs, but performance measurement and declaration is still new at the level of whole buildings. The Athena Institute is pioneering EBDs with leading-edge building owners. This is our fourth one, and the first for a building in the US.