Gypsum Association Commissions Athena Institute to Conduct Extensive LCA Study

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Athena recently completed a comprehensive cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment of the industry's top two gypsum wallboard products

An excellent job leading us through a complex process. -Michael Gardner, Executive Director, Gypsum Association.

The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute has completed an industry wide cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment (LCA) study for the Gypsum Association of the industry’s two most common gypsum wallboard products: ½” regular and 5/8” type X gypsum wallboard.

Demonstrating its commitment to sustainability of the built environment, the Gypsum Association commissioned the study in early 2011 to get life cycle assessment answers using contemporary assessment methods, and to be able to upload reliable and up-to-date life cycle inventory data to the US Life Cycle Inventory Database and have these data integrated into key building LCA tools, such as the Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings and EcoCalculator for Building Assemblies.

Working with Dr. Robert Wessel of the Gypsum Association, Dr. Lindita Bushi and Mr. Jamie Meil of the Athena Institute completed the year long study with considerable input from the Gypsum Association’s membership. The Athena team designed the study to be a representative, transparent and ISO 14040/44:2006 compliant cradle-to-gate life cycle assessment of 1,000 square feet of both ½” regular and 5/8“ type X gypsum wallboard as produced in the United States in 2010. Both products are used extensively in building construction and renovation.

In support of the study, primary life cycle inventory (LCI) data were collected for three major gate-to-gate processes in the production of gypsum wallboard (natural or crude gypsum ore extraction, gypsum paper manufacture, and gypsum wallboard production) for the reference year 2010. The manufacturing plant study sample included all Gypsum Association member companies and represented about 30% of all gypsum wallboard produced in the USA. To ensure representativeness, the manufacturing plant study also considered the scale of operations including a mix of small, medium and large facilities, their geographical location in each US census region and their source of gypsum (adjacent quarry, mine, or imported gypsum ore) as well as their use of flue gas desulphurization (FGD) gypsum.

The study underwent third-party critical review (by theGreenTeam, Inc.) and the resulting data are currently being uploaded to the US LCI Database and incorporated into the Athena tools, the Impact Estimator and EcoCalculator. Athena continues to work with Gypsum Association member companies, providing them with additional corporate level LCA services and summaries of the LCA results for the subset of their plants included in the industry level study.

Michael Gardner, the Gypsum Association’s Executive Director, expressed his appreciation to Athena as follows: “Thank you for a fine project. It has been a pleasure to work with you and your team and I am hopeful we will work together again in the future. An excellent job leading us through a complex process.”

For more information about the Gypsum Association, visit their website:

The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute is a membership-based non-profit research collaborative bringing life cycle assessment (LCA) to the construction sector. The Athena Institute is a science-based organization placing a high value on credibility, transparency, and collaboration. Its goal is to provide robust and clear information that ensures footprint claims about materials and buildings are based on supported facts. Athena develops LCA data and software tools specifically related to construction, such as the Impact Estimator and the EcoCalculator. Athena also provides education, advocacy and expertise as North American codes and standards evolve towards LCA. With a highly specialized team of collaborators, the Athena Institute is frequently contracted for custom research projects that require a particularly deep level of knowledge and experience in construction sector LCA. Whenever possible, results of these research projects are linked back to the core goal of delivering LCA tools to the construction sector as a whole.


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