Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is the most rigorous scientific methodology that can be applied to the selection of building materials or assemblies. Just as its name implies, LCA examines the impact of a building material from its creation to its disposal or recycling. LCA considers the energy used and emissions caused to create, transport, manufacture, refine it and so on.
LCA can provide a true picture of just how green a building material is. It considers the energy used and emissions caused from creating, transporting and manufacturing a material as well as impacts at the material’s end of life. LCA measures the tradeoffs between products in terms of energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality impacts, water quality impacts and solid waste (landfill) impacts.
Across the board, wood outperforms plastics, steel and concrete. Using concrete instead of wood, for example, can generate 80 percent more greenhouse gases and require about 40 percent more energy. With LCA, science clearly shows that using wood can save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.