Latest update of the Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings available – and now free-of-charge

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With new features and data, the latest version of the acclaimed whole building Life Cycle Assessment-based software is now available as a free download

Comparison graph generated by the Impact Estimator

The Impact Estimator is the easiest way to meet the LCA options in CALGreen, the International Green Construction Code, and the National Green Building Standard.

The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute and its software partner Morrison Hershfield are pleased to announce a major change to the distribution of the acclaimed whole building life cycle assessment (LCA)-based software tool, the Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings. The Impact Estimator (IE) is now available for free download from

The decision to offer the Impact Estimator as a free download was made in order to significantly increase the user base of the IE within the architectural/engineering design community, as well as the post-secondary education sector, and furthermore to meet the Athena mandate of bringing LCA to the construction sector. By doing so, the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute will be in a better position to continually improve the IE and expand its databases, in order to meet emerging LCA market demands.

In addition to being freely available, this update (Version 4.2) has substantial new features and data that greatly extend the capability of the tool.

New Features and Data:

  •     Users can now import their own bill of materials from CAD or other sources.
  •     The “Extra materials” input form has been simplified and enhanced.
  •     New assemblies have been added: precast concrete columns and beams, and composite metal floors.
  •     New materials have been added: polyiso foam boards with glass and foil facings and Canadian architectural precast panels.
  •     We have updated our data for PVC roof membranes, un-faced polyiso foam boards, gypsum boards, Canadian precast hollow-core panels and double-T beams.
  •     US EPA TRACI impact characterization factors have been updated to v2.0

This release was made possible by support from the following: the Gypsum Association; the Canadian Precast Prestressed Concrete Institute*; the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association; Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute; the American Institute of Steel Construction; the Structural Engineering Institute Sustainability Committee; Forestry Innovation Investment; the Polyiso Insulation Manufacturers Association; the USDA Forest Products Lab; and Athena Institute members.

*Member of the Athena Institute.

In North America, the Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings is the only software tool that is designed to evaluate whole buildings and assemblies based on internationally recognized life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology. The Impact Estimator is the easiest way to meet the LCA options in CALGreen, the International Green Construction Code, and the National Green Building Standard.

Using the Impact Estimator, architects, engineers and others can easily assess and compare the environmental implications of new buildings and major renovations.

The Impact Estimator takes into account the environmental impacts of:

  •     material manufacturing, including resource extraction and recycled content
  •     related transportation
  •     on-site construction
  •     regional variation in energy use, transportation and other factors
  •     building type and assumed lifespan
  •     maintenance and replacement effects
  •     demolition and disposal

The Impact Estimator provides these cradle-to-grave impacts of a building:

  •     fossil fuel consumption
  •     global warming potential
  •     acidification potential
  •     human health respiratory effects potential
  •     ozone depletion potential
  •     photochemical smog potential
  •     eutrophication potential

This user-friendly tool provides quick results in clear tables and graphs. The Impact Estimator allows users to change the design, substitute materials, and make side–by–side comparisons. It also lets users compare similar projects with different floor areas on a unit floor area basis.

Guided by its commitment to meeting the changing needs of the sustainable building community and providing the best available data, the Athena Institute releases software updates semi–annually.

The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute is a non-profit research group bringing tools and data to the construction sector for the next generation of “green.” Since 1997, the Athena Institute has focused on quantification of sustainability in design. We work with leading edge architects, engineers, building owners and material manufacturers to measure the real environmental impact of buildings, infrastructure and construction materials using life cycle assessment (LCA). The only North American organization dedicated to construction-sector LCA, Athena develops and maintains a large LCA database for construction materials and provides the LCA-based Impact Estimator and EcoCalculator software tools to building and roadway designers. Contact us to learn more about LCA in design practice, get our tools, join our mailing list or support us in our work to advance the tools and the construction databases.

Morrison Hershfield is an employee owned, multi-discipline consulting engineering firm in 17 offices throughout North America. Founded in 1946, the firm delivers innovative solutions on projects involving both linear and vertical infrastructure. Client sectors serviced include Buildings, Transportation, Environmental, Land Development, Technology & Telecommunications, Energy & Industrial and Water & Wastewater. Morrison Hershfield is a North American leader in sustainability for the built environment and we bundle sustainability buildings services, such as Expert LEED® Facilitation, Energy Modeling, Building Commissioning Authority, Envelope and Materials Durability Analysis and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), to help our clients achieve high performing green buildings. Morrison Hershfield has been privileged to have collaborated with the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute in the development of the Impact Estimator for Buildings, Version 4.

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