Whole building life cycle environmental impacts and costs: A sensitivity study of design and service decisions

Vaclav Hasik, Maximilian Ororbia, Gordon P. Warn, Melissa M. Bilec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Improvements in building performance have focused on improving the energy efficiency of buildings, while, more recently, impacts associated with material production have also gained interest across the industry. However, emerging issues surrounding sustainability and resilience of buildings warrant a more holistic understanding of building design. This study presents a framework for the quantitative assessment of a range of sustainability and resilience performance aspects during early building design. The framework brings together a multitude of developed methods such as environmental life cycle assessment, life cycle costing, energy modeling, and seismic loss assessment to estimate the energy, water, and material-related environmental and economic costs. The framework is then used to conduct a sensitivity study investigating the potential shifts in the importance of various design and service aspects related to buildings. The main novelty is the broader consideration of building-scale and regional-scale energy and water services along with other typically considered building design features, and the consideration of regional seismic hazards for lifetime repairs. The results reinforce the long-known significance of use phase energy consumption for environmental impacts but show how the energy source type overshadows typical energy-efficiency design aspects, which are also less cost-effective considering the current state of the electricity market. The results also show the potentially significant contribution of different wastewater treatment scenarios on the environmental impacts of buildings and the changes in the share of embodied material impacts across locations. The presented framework could be used more broadly for a holistic building assessment useful for early design decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106316
JournalBuilding and Environment
StatePublished - Oct 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction


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