Embracing Sustainable Construction: The Role of Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) training.

In construction, sustainability has evolved from being a buzzword to becoming a fundamental pillar of industry practices. One crucial tool at the forefront of this movement is Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs). This article delves into the significance of LCAs, their integration into construction practices, their alignment with standards, and the importance of training for industry professionals.

Carbon Emissions From the Built Environment

It is well documented that the built environment is responsible for around 40% of global carbon emissions with construction responsible for around 11%. The focus over the last twenty years or so has been on operational emissions produced from heating and operating a building throughout its use. However,  when it comes to new buildings, up to 50% of the total emissions produced by that building through its lifetime can come from the construction process. Put another way, up to half of the carbon emissions a building will ever produce occur before any heating, lights, or power are turned on.

The industry is now turning its attention to the ‘embodied carbon’ emissions from construction, and the method  used to assess these are Whole Lifecycle Carbon Assessments (WLCAs).

Figure 1: Embodied Carbon in Construction

What is a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

At its core, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a comprehensive methodology used to evaluate the carbon impacts of a product, process, or service throughout its entire life cycle. This assessment considers various stages, from raw material extraction and production to use, maintenance, and disposal or recycling. LCAs aim to quantify resource consumption, energy usage, emissions, and potential environmental burdens associated with a particular activity or entity.

Figure 2: Project LCA

Why Are They Fundamental?

LCAs serve as indispensable tools for decision-making in sustainable construction practices. By providing a holistic view of environmental impacts, LCAs enable stakeholders to identify opportunities for improvement, optimise resource utilisation, minimise waste generation, and ultimately enhance the overall sustainability performance of projects. Moreover, LCAs foster transparency and accountability, aligning with the increasing societal and regulatory demands for environmentally responsible construction practices.

How Will They Be Used?

In the construction industry, LCAs find application across various stages of project development and execution:  LCAs are now mandatory for larger developments as part of the Greater London Authority (GLA) planning requirements, and the UKGBC’s roadmap to Net Zero in Construction.  They are a foundational part of the Science Based Targets initiative embodied carbon curves and any Government backed initiative to limit embodied carbon will require consistent application of LCA methodology.

  • Design Phase: Architects and engineers utilise LCAs to assess the environmental implications of different design alternatives, materials, and construction methods. This enables them to make informed decisions that prioritise sustainability without compromising structural integrity or functionality.
  • Procurement and Material Selection: Procurement professionals leverage LCAs to evaluate the environmental footprint of construction materials and components. By considering factors such as embodied carbon, energy efficiency, and recyclability, they can choose environmentally preferable options and drive sustainable supply chain practices.
  • Construction and Operations: During construction and operation phases, project teams use LCAs to monitor resource consumption, energy usage, and emissions. This facilitates proactive management of environmental impacts, adherence to sustainability targets, and continuous improvement initiatives.
  • End-of-Life Considerations: LCAs inform decisions regarding end-of-life scenarios, such as demolition, decommissioning, or recycling. By assessing the environmental consequences of disposal options, stakeholders can adopt strategies that minimise waste generation and promote circularity.

How Do They Fit Into Other Standards (at a High Level)?

LCAs complement and align with various international standards and frameworks aimed at promoting sustainability in the construction industry. Some notable examples include:

  • ISO 14040/14044: These International standards provide guidelines for conducting LCAs, ensuring consistency, rigor, and comparability of assessment results. Adherence to ISO standards enhances the credibility and reliability of LCA studies, facilitating their acceptance and adoption by stakeholders.
  • RICS Whole life carbon assessment (WLCA) for the built environment (2nd edition 2023): This standard builds upon European Standard EN 15978:: “Sustainability of construction works. Assessment of environmental performance of buildings. Calculation methods”. The WLCA standard provides the detailed methodology to enable consistent measurement and quantification of whole life carbon emissions, inclusive of all embodied and operational carbon throughout the whole life cycle of the asset, from initial design to end of life.
  • Green Building Certifications: Leading green building certification schemes, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method), recognize the value of LCAs in assessing and rewarding sustainable design and construction practices. LCAs contribute to earning credits related to materials selection, life cycle impacts, and environmental performance.
  • Net Zero and Carbon Neutrality Initiatives: With the growing emphasis on achieving net-zero carbon emissions and carbon neutrality, LCAs play a pivotal role in quantifying and reducing embodied carbon across the entire life cycle of buildings and infrastructure. Integration of LCAs into carbon accounting frameworks facilitates informed decision-making and progress tracking towards carbon reduction goals.  

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has published the draft embodied carbon targets.  There are currently over seven thousand companies signed up to the SBTis, with over eight hundred companies in the real estate and construction industry signed up.  Below are the draft embodied carbon benchmarks from the SBTi.

SIBTi draft decarobisation pathway for upfront embodied GHG emissions in buildings

Why Is Verification Required?

It increases the accuracy and credibility of results. It is a requirement under the Greater London Plan, the UKGBC's Net Zero Carbon framework definition, and the new RICS professional standard.

It helps ensure that an assessment is consistent and comparable with different projects, allowing for meaningful benchmarking and analysis. It provides assurance to stakeholders, including clients, investors, and regulatory authorities, that the assessment has been conducted in a rigorous and transparent manner.

What Training Is Available?

Recognizing the critical role of LCAs in advancing sustainability in construction, Construction Carbon has worked with industry partners to develop a two stage  training program focused on building LCAs. These training sessions equip industry professionals with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to conduct robust and meaningful LCAs, aligned with best practices and international standards. Participants gain insights into LCA methodologies, data collection techniques, software applications, and interpretation of results, enabling them to integrate sustainability considerations effectively into project planning, design, and decision-making processes.

This programme has been developed by leading industry professionals, including Simon Sturgis, lead author of the RICS professional Standard (2017 and 2023), Jane Anderson author of European standards (including EN 15978) and a leading EPD verifier, Pat Hermon, BRE technical Lead, Leonardo Poli (Introba and OneclickLCA).  The programme is supported by the Laudes Foundation, designed in partnership with CIBSE Training and the free initial training is to be delivered in partnership with the Supply Chain Sustainability School.

This course is suitable for anyone working within the real estate industry. It is aimed at developers, surveyors, contractors, consultants and their teams who would benefit from a foundation in sustainable construction, life cycle assessments and the standards, policy, legislation and guidance impacting construction decision making.

This course will form the foundation to becoming an accredited UK Life Cycle Assessor, as an Accredited LCA Training programme will be launched by CIBSE by the end of 2024.


This free course is designed for developers, students and sustainability professionals who wish to learn more about carbon efficient construction, life cycle carbon and the process of assessing carbon in a consistent way.

Key topics:

  • What is embodied carbon and its impact on the climate emergency. What is carbon efficient construction and the regulations driving the need to measure and reduce life cycle carbon in construction.
  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) core concepts, including building life cycle stages, environmental impact assessment, and the data types required for performing LCAs.
  • Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), what they are, why they are so important and how they are managed.
  • Materials, what are the key contributors to embodied carbon, how do building techniques impact embodied carbon, decarbonisation and where to focus attention.
  • International Standards overview including standards, policy, legislation and guidance.
  • Wider context of sustainable construction including global regulation, the business case and sustainability beyond carbon.

Delivery Method:

  • Six 45min prerecorded modules.
  • 1 live 90min course recap / Q&A session.
  • 1 online course assessment, a multiple-choice test issued after completion of sessions 1-6 and having attended the live course recap / Q&A session.
  • A CPD Certificate of Course Completion issued upon passing the course online assessment which will confirm CPD hours attained.  To enrol, simply register using this link here:

About the Authors:  Gilbert Lennox-King and Tom Scott are co founders of Construction Carbon, a company dedicated to simplifying embodied carbon for industry stakeholders through training, verification and software. Between them they have over 35 years delivering carbon reductions in the property industry, both in construction and operation.