Berkeley Lab releases free life cycle energy, environmental model for structural materials

Sources: Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.; Portland Cement Association, Skokie, Ill.

A new software tool for design, engineering and construction professionals studies all phases of a building’s life cycle, from materials acquisition through demolition, to determine its true environmental footprint.

Developed under PCA sponsorship, the B-PATH model (Berkeley Lab Building Materials Pathways) estimates the energy, resources and environmental impacts associated with structural materials’ production; their effects on the energy use of a building during operation; and, their impacts when the building is ultimately demolished and its constituent materials are reused, recycled, or disposed. Users can model concrete, steel, and lumber from their production, transportation, and construction until their end-of-life processes. B-PATH also lets users define which fuels and amount of electricity consumed in each process.

“Minimizing the environmental impacts of a building throughout its life cycle is a promising way of reducing the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions,” says B-PATH development team leader Eric Masanet. “The key is having a tool grounded in sound science to perform a life cycle analysis—the data analysis, plus systems mass and energy balance modeling techniques, to estimate the inputs of fuels, materials, and resources associated with all relevant processes in the life cycle of a product or service.”

The model incorporates both current practice and best practice methods of production and construction to determine how they affect energy use. Users can tailor results to specific U.S. regions, which vary by climate, local and regional characteristics in materials supply chains, construction practices, and end-of-project-life pathways, as well as in the mix of fuels for electrical power supply sources and volume of water consumption. Prepared in Excel format, the B-PATH model can be downloaded by clicking here.