Life cycle assessment for Zero Emission Buildings – A chronology of the development of a visual, dynamic and integrated approach
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Current regulations to reduce energy consumption, and GHG emissions from buildings have focused on reducing operational impacts  This paper addresses the specific challenge of increasing complexity and decreasing usability when dealing with the level of detail required when modelling life cycle assessment (LCA) and integrating embodied emission calculations in the design process of a ZEB. It is well known that architectural design processes inherently have high degrees of complexity, and this paper investigates how the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the design process can have a great impact on reducing GHG emissions and increasing sustainability in ZEBs. Visualisation is an invaluable tool to communicate complex data in an interactive way that makes it easier for non-expert users to integrate LCA thinking early and throughout the design process. The paper presents a chronology in the development of a more visual, integrated and dynamic approach involving the use of parametric LCA models for decision-support purposes. Such an approach provides the designer with a direct link between the 3D digital model and embodied emissions data contained in the ZEB Tool to perform life cycle GHG emission calculations of buildings. Integrating LCA in a more visual and easily understood way in the holistic design process can also influence more tangible material choices in terms of, for example, architectural tectonics or cultural heritage. This allows designers the possibility to choose, for example, durable or natural materials with the lowest environmental impact or innovative materials with high or low associated emissions and consider these holistically early in the design phase when the level of design freedom is greater. The extent to which existing ICT tools and User Interfaces (UI), such as dashboards, can provide dynamic visual feedback on selected parameters, including LCA, in the design process of zero emission buildings, is discussed. The paper presents two 'proof of concept' dashboards to visualise LCAs at the building (ZEB) and neighbourhood (ZEN) scale. Both approaches are currently being further developed in The ZEN research centre to visualise, analyse and model the data at different scales for different ZEN Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) using visualisation and immersive technologies, such as Extended Reality (XR) technologies including Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).