Architects and other construction professionals recently welcomed an exciting new tool to support their ambitious efforts to fight climate change through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The Athena Institute has released its new Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) tool, the Athena® EcoCalculator for Assemblies, provides instant LCA results for more than 400 common building assemblies-including exterior walls, roofs, intermediate floors, interior walls, windows, and columns and beams, to help designers make environmentally informed decisions about the materials they specify for buildings.

The results embedded in the tool are based on detailed assessments completed with the ATHENA® Impact Estimator for Buildings, which in turn uses ATHENA's own widely acclaimed datasets and the U.S. Life Cycle Inventory Database (www.nrel.gov/lci).

"The EcoCalculator is designed to help more people incorporate environmental considerations at the conceptual stage of a project-when most critical decisions are made," said Wayne Trusty, president of the ATHENA Institute.  "This helps to put the environment on equal footing with other more traditional design criteria, such as cost, functionality and aesthetics."

The EcoCalculator can be used for new construction projects, retrofits and major renovations, and for industrial, institutional, office or residential designs-either to
compare specific assemblies or to assess all of the assemblies in a structure.

Assemblies are evaluated in terms of a range of performance measures, including global warming potential, primary energy (fossil fuel depletion), air and water pollution, and weighted resource use.  Results show real time changes as the inputs are adjusted, which allows different assembly options to be considered in light of their environmental impacts.

Developed by ATHENA in association with the University of Minnesota's Center for Sustainable Building Research and Morrison Hershfield Consulting Engineers, the EcoCalculator is based on an LCA tool commissioned by the Green Building Initiative™ (GBI) for integration with the Green Globes™ environmental assessment and rating system.

The original tool is being evaluated by the GBI's American National Standards Institute (ANSI) technical sub-committee as part of the formal process to establish Green Globes as an ANSI standard. However, because of its value as an indicator of climate change impacts, the GBI also supported the creation of a generic version of the tool-the ATHENA® EcoCalculator for Assemblies-for use by the broader design community.

The ATHENA® EcoCalculator for Assemblies is available on the Web at www.athenasmi.ca.