Life cycle assessment in the building design process - A systematic literature review

Matt Roberts, Stephen Allen, David Coley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (SciVal)


Buildings contribute a significant portion of global greenhouse gas emissions and have the potential for largescale impact reductions. Reducing the whole-life impacts of buildings is critical for creating a net-zero carbon built environment. For this to be achieved, the whole-life carbon impacts of design decisions must be considered
during the building design process. A systematic review of academic literature was conducted to assess how life cycle assessment (LCA) is incorporated at various stages of the building design process, and what improvements are needed to support net-zero carbon design. The review compiled 274 papers that were published up to the end of 2019, of which 108 were subject to detailed review following screening. The review found that LCA is generally used late in the design process, when it is too late to greatly influence the design. Incorporating LCA with either building information modelling or life cycle costing is seen to have the same challenges as undertaking a traditional LCA. Parametric methods show promise for design development, but tools and algorithms require further verification and regionalisation to be implemented throughout industry. The use of benchmarks, target values and other pre-populated information can be used to incorporate life-cycle thinking without the need to undertake a detailed LCA. The review has demonstrated that LCA continues to face barriers, in both methods and practice, preventing its ability to guide early-stage design decisions and have a large impact on the environmental performance of buildings.
Original languageEnglish
Article number107274
Number of pages12
JournalBuilding and Environment
Early online date16 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2020


  • Building
  • Early-stage design
  • Environmental design
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Net zero carbon
  • Whole life carbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction


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