Athena Sustainable Materials Institute Releases Update to its Acclaimed Impact Estimator for Buildings Software

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The non-profit research collaborative today released Version 5.1 of its free whole-building Life Cycle Assessment tool

We are indebted to our members and supporters for their ongoing commitment to making the Impact Estimator free and the go-to source for whole-building LCA. -Jamie Meil

In keeping with its continued support of whole-building life cycle assessment (LCA), the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute has released a new version of its acclaimed Impact Estimator for Buildings software.

The software is used by design teams across North America to explore the environmental footprint of different material choices and core-and-shell system options. The Impact Estimator provides a cradle-to-grave life cycle inventory (LCI) profile for a whole building, including the projected flows from and to nature: energy and raw material flows, plus emissions to air, water and land.

Version 5.1 of the Impact Estimator includes a number of new and updated LCI databases and processes for the following building materials:

CONCRETE. With the support of the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the Portland Cement Association and the Cement Association of Canada, Athena has made a host of changes to the Impact Estimator’s concrete assemblies and mix design profiles:

  • NRMCA benchmark concrete mix designs were added to the database Product Library for six compressive strengths.
  • Users can still define their own concrete mixes, but now they can also draw on 48 additional concrete mix designs as described in NRMCA’s industry wide Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).
  • The US Portland cement profile has been updated based on work at the Concrete Sustainability Hub at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
  • The ready-mixed plant process was updated according to the NRMCA industry-wide LCA and EPD. Similarly, regional coarse and fine aggregate transportation distances were updated.

SLAG CEMENT. With the support of the Slag Cement Association, the previous ground granulated blast furnace slag profile has been retired and replaced with the latest (2015) North American industry-wide average EPD profile, and renamed slag cement.

PVC ROOFING MEMBRANE. Duro-Last® Roofing, Inc.’s 40, 50, and 60 mil polyester reinforced white PVC (cool roof) roofing membranes have been added to the Impact Estimator’s roof envelope library.    

ALUMINUM. With the support of the Aluminum Association, the software’s previous aluminum profiles were replaced with the latest (2014) North American LCI data for primary and secondary ingot, cold and hot rolled sheet, extruded and cast products.

METAL ROOF CLADDING. Based on a compelling piece of research supported by the Metal Construction Association, the lifespan of metal roof cladding has been changed from 45 to 60 years.

The Athena team has also created a “how to define a custom product” tutorial to show users how to add their own unique composite products or concrete mix designs.

This update was made possible by support from the Aluminum Association, Cement Association of Canada, Duro-Last Roofing, Inc., the Metal Construction Association, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association, the Portland Cement Association, the Slag Cement Association, and Athena members.

Jamie Meil, Athena’s Research Principal and the prime developer of the Impact Estimator, expressed the organization’s gratitude: “As always, we are indebted to our members and supporters for their ongoing commitment to making the Impact Estimator for Buildings software free and the go-to source for whole-building LCA.”

The Impact Estimator is available as a free download here.

The Athena Institute is a non-profit consultancy and think tank in life cycle assessment (LCA) for the built environment. The North American pioneer in construction-sector LCA, the Athena Institute works with sustainability leaders in product manufacturing, building design, construction, and green rating programs to enable smaller footprints in the production and consumption of materials, buildings and infrastructure. Athena’s common-good work includes free LCA software tools for architects and engineers and the development and maintenance of a large LCI/LCA database on construction materials and processes that underlies our tools. We additionally advocate and educate on the benefit of LCA in construction practice and in industry in order to help meet our mandate to mitigate the environmental burdens embodied in works of construction. Our support network includes a range of product manufacturers, trade associations, design professionals and other research organizations.

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