Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) Software from Athena Sustainable Materials Institute

Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a powerful tool for measuring the impact of various building materials on the environment. Until recently, LCA has been difficult for designers to consider for their every day projects. The Athena Sustainable Materials Institute, a non-profit research collaborative bringing LCA to the construction sector, has taken the complexity out of LCA for building designers by providing free LCA software that uses robust LCI databases to provide accurate scientific cradle-to-grave information for building materials and products, transportation, and construction and demolition processes. The Athena Institute brings the power of LCA to designers without requiring them to become LCA experts themselves.


Carbon Challenge Impact Estimator for Buildings Software

For the Carbon Challenge, each participant will be provided with a free copy of the Athena Impact Estimator for Buildings software, a LCA-based whole building assessment tool for use at the conceptual design stage. This program shows the environmental effects of changes in shape, design or material make-up of a building, and allows designers to optimize operating+embodied energy effects over the complete building life cycle. In the Carbon Challenge, designers will use the Impact Estimator to determine their LCA global warming potential score. That score is based on cradle-to-grave life-cycle (from extraction of raw materials, to product manufacture, to completion of structure, to structure demolition) and includes fossil fuel energy use. A printout of the score will be required with each Carbon Challenge Design Competition entry and will be reviewed for accuracy by the Athena Institute prior to final judging. Follow the instructions below to download this program.

Version 4.2 build 0202 of the Impact Estimator for Buildings Software has been designed specifically for the 2013 Carbon Challenge. Follow the instructions below to download the software directly from the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute.


Downloading the Impact Estimator for Buildings Software

Before downloading, please note the following: There are two installation packages available. The x86.zip installation package will function properly on both 32 bit Windows operating systems and 64 bit Windows operating systems. However, there is a single caveat for 64 bit Windows operating systems: If 64 bit Microsoft Office is installed on 64 bit Windows operating system (Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8), then you should install the x64.zip installation package.

The file can be downloaded using any common web browser by following these instructions:

  1. Click this link: Download Impact Estimator for Buildings Software
  2. Inside this linked folder are two ZIP packaged files. Which file should you download?

    ***If your computer is running a 32 Bit or 64 Bit version of Windows and a 32 Bit version of Microsoft Office…then Right-Click on the ZIP package file named “Impact Estimator for Buildings.4_2_0202.x86.zip”
    ***If and only if your computer is running a 64 Bit version of Windows and a 64 Bit version of Microsoft Office…then Right-Click on the ZIP package file named “Impact Estimator for Buildings.4_2_0202.x64.zip”

    (Note that in this folder you will find two additional files: "APA Carbon Challenge Template.xlsm" is an Excel template that is required along with your Athena file submission, and "Athena Impact Estimator Carbon Challenge Webinar #2 13-02-13 2.08 PM.mov" is a recording of a web presentation that provides an overview of the Impact Estimator software and how to use it. To download either file, Right-Click on the file, then select “Save As” and pick a folder to save the file to.)
  3. Select “Save As” and pick a folder to save the file to.
  4. Once downloaded, open Windows Explorer and navigate to the download folder.
  5. Right-Click on the ZIP file and select “Extract All” or similar so that the ZIP package is unzipped. By default, the file will probably be placed into a new folder named “Impact Estimator for Buildings.4_2_0202.x86”.
  6. If applicable, navigate to the new sub-folder (probably named Impact Estimator for Buildings.4_2_0202.x86).
  7. Double-Click on the “setup.exe” file to start installation.

DO NOT attempt to run the setup.exe file from within the ZIP package. Doing so will cause installation to fail.

If you have questions regarding software installation, please refer to the two README files (readme.txt and readme.html) located in the ZIP packaged file. If you encounter any difficulties with the installation, please refer to the software FAQ page. For additional assistance, please refer to the Support section below.


Carbon Challenge Excel Verification Template

Upon entry submission, the Athena Institute will verify your Impact Estimator model. In order to facilitate this, an Excel template has been prepared. This template must be completed and provided along with your Athena file submission. This Excel template is a simple table describing the basic geometry of each assembly that you model in Impact Estimator and it can be easily completed at the same time that you model your design. To download the template:

  1. Click this link: Download Impact Estimator for Buildings Software
  2. Inside this linked folder, Right-Click on the file named "APA Carbon Challenge Template.xlsm".
  3. Select “Save As” and pick a folder to save the file to.

Impact Estimator Training Video

A one hour recording of a webinar orientation to the Impact Estimator for Building software (delivered live on February 13, 2013) provides an overview of the program and how to use it. To view the program:

  1. Click this link: Download Impact Estimator for Buildings Software
  2. Inside this linked folder, Right-Click on the file named "Athena Impact Estimator Carbon Challenge Webinar #2 13-02-13 2.08 PM.mov".
  3. Select “Save As” and pick a folder to save the file to.

Note that this video is a very large file and may take several minutes to download.


Support

If you have difficulty with the installation, please refer to the FAQ section of the Athena website:http://calculatelca.com/faqs/

Once you are ready to get started using the software, the Impact Estimator Training Video (see above) offers an overview of the software and how to use it. In addition, several short recorded video tutorials are available on the Athena website to help new users learn the basic workings of the program: http://calculatelca.com/resources/watch-tutorials/

If you still have a question about the installation or use of the Impact Estimator for Buildings software after referring to the above resources, please contact Athena.