Life Cycle Assessment Makes Concrete a Winner

The choice of materials can make a major impact on green building design. A full Life Cycle Assessment can help determine which material to use. Consideration must be given to extraction, processing, transport, construction, operation, disposal, reuse, recycling, off-gassing and volatile organic compounds (VOC) associated with each material.

Sustainable Building Design


Architects, engineers, owners and developers are shaping the future of our communities. In the search for materials and systems that will provide a durable foundation for sustainable communities, they are increasingly turning to concrete.

For Architects: Concrete offers a dramatic range of colours, finishes and unlimited design possibilities, while creating a structure that provides superior environmental and energy performance. Cost-effective, energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing, concrete structures deliver increased client satisfaction. To see what concrete can contribute to building design, pdf click here 135.50 Mb.

For Engineers: Engineers have shown the many ways they can use concrete to achieve state-of-the-art environmental and energy performance. Designs that take advantage of the thermal mass and structural integrity of concrete have resulted in many award-winning projects.

For Developers: Concrete offers a competitive building solution based on first cost, long-term economic benefits, energy efficiency, lower maintenance and overall operating costs as well as opportunities for future reuse should the occupancy of the building change.

For Owners: Concrete offers both aesthetic appeal and cost effectiveness. Its strength and natural thermal mass result in a building that has low maintenance costs and high operating energy efficiency.

Operating vs Embodied Primary Energy Consumption


A complete Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) including operating energy usage must be undertaken to determine the full potential environmental footprint of a building. Work completed by the ATHENA Institute for the international Green Building Challenge demonstrates that over the lifetime of a building, operating energy has a far greater impact than embodied energy. The embodied energy of the materials, in this study, represents only 3 to 13 percent of total energy use over a 75 - 80 year building life.

Source: Scott Horst, ATHENA Institute

Green Buildings Rating Systems

All green building rating systems promote the construction of better buildings - better for the environment, the owner and the occupants.

These rating systems, in an evolutionary stage, try to account for as many relevant factors as possible. However, many fundamental factors such as durability have yet to be incorporated into building rating systems. These factors can significantly influence a building's environmental evaluation and should be considered during the building design phase.

LEEDTM and Concrete

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDTM) measurement system is rapidly being adopted as a green building design and rating tool by both the architectural and engineering communities in Canada. Concrete solutions can contribute over 20 points toward a desired level of LEED certification.

Concrete can be used in combination with a wide variety of other building materials to earn a desired level of certification.