How could construction benefit from joint development of sustainability calculation tools?

Construction faces growing demands for sustainability. The industry, however, suffers from the lack of digital tools to assess sustainability and educate decision makers of buildings’ environmental impact. Very few players in the field are committed to collaboratively improve impact calculation tools and derive better ways of working.

At HEAL, we interviewed sustainability professionals along the building value chain to understand how environmental impact is taken into account in the design phase of buildings. Our previously published article on the research can be read here and related article on carbon calculations here.

Collaborative development of LCA tools could enhance building sustainability

“The solutions we develop are useful but we’re not allowed to make them accessible to the rest of the world.”

At its best, software and tools to measure environmental impact should streamline processes, make expert knowledge accessible, ease decision making and decrease the number of defects. Useful tools exist, yet most of them are inaccessible for many firms due to high prices or confidentiality. Environmental impact calculations and data are often secured with NDAs and firms mostly put effort to foster internal development or their client advantage, rather than contributing to reform the industry. Currently, the tools developed are typically to answer a firm’s own specific needs.

The process of Life Cycle Assessment is complex and requires the know-how of several experts

Compiling LCA requires the effort of several actors in different specialised areas. Hiring impact calculation experts for each building project may be costly and often inconvenient. Relevant digital solutions could provide an alternative to managing the work of numerous experts. In fact, the number of digital calculation tools is increasing but simultaneously new silos are created as separate structures and different data cannot communicate together. Collaborative, open source development could allow construction companies to develop congruous solutions and release resources from improving tools to improving actual building sustainability.

Simple assessment and data would ease decision making process

Ensuring affordable access for sustainability data and assessment tools would be the key for wider adaptation of building LCA. In addition, simpler ways to measure, communicate and visualise would most likely increase the use of impact calculations at earlier phases in building. When simplifying measurements, it would be worth noticing, though, the importance of the right balance of information. Too much simplification may cause misleading assumptions whereas detailed data makes it difficult to understand the actual impact of certain decisions. Simple calculations aside detailed assessment that provide comprehensive, yet understandable data would best support use cases and help considering sustainability in decision making.

Our goal is to open up collaboration and encourage brands for joint innovation of solutions that help improving the building industry. Do you want to join the movement towards healthier building? Contact us!

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