A materials life cycle assessment of a net-zero energy building

Cassandra L. Thiel, Nicole Campion, Amy E. Landis, Alex K. Jones, Laura A. Schaefer, Melissa M. Bilec

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study analyzed the environmental impacts of the materials phase of a net-zero energy building. The Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) is a three-story, 24,350 square foot educational, research, and administrative office in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. This net-zero energy building is designed to meet Living Building Challenge criteria. The largest environmental impacts from the production of building materials is from concrete, structural steel, photovoltaic (PV) panels, inverters, and gravel. Comparing the LCA results of the CSL to standard commercial structures reveals a 10% larger global warming potential and a nearly equal embodied energy per square feet, largely due to the CSL's PV system. As a net-zero energy building, the environmental impacts associated with the use phase are expected to be very low relative to standard structures. Future studies will incorporate the construction and use phases of the CSL for a more comprehensive life cycle perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1125-1141
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Green buildings
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Living building challenge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Optimization
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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