MIT Showcase Update: CSHub Seeks to Bridge Life Cycle Chasm in Buildings

The MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub (CSHub) is focused on Building for LIFE through life cycle thinking, innovation, fiscal responsibility and environmental leadership. During the recent CSHub Showcase, three areas of exploration were summarized in the Quantifying Life Cycle Cost and Environmental Impact of Buildings workshop:

Life cycle assessment - While past research efforts have demonstrated the value of life cycle thinking in the buildings sector, there is a gap between existing life cycle assessment (LCA) literature/tools and the specifiers that can benefit from them. The researchers at CSHub explained their approach to understanding this gap through (1) Literature review; (2) Exploration of existing LCA tools; (3) Survey of design process; and (4) Focus group with design professionals. By integrating this knowledge the researchers are considering opportunities to bridge the chasm by streamlining the LCA tools and identifying influential design parameters to include LCA in the design process.

Thermal mass benefit - Energy optimization of buildings requires a holistic approach. The CSHub studied thermal benefits of materials as a compendium of strategies that built upon each other. The researchers presented the results from their Idealized Cube Model which described energy consumption relative to various conductivity and density at different climate zones. Design professionals can now utilize this study to prioritize design strategies.

Life cycle cost analysis – While there are numerous metrics to evaluating performance of homes, there is no clear way to communicate performance trade-offs. Moreover, the tradition default metric of performance - the building code - does not provide a standard methodology to quantify maintenance, energy consumption nor damage from hazards. The CSHub presented its proposed approach to compare life cycle costs against quantitative performance metrics, including a consistent framework for quantifying resilience strategies.

For more information on the research at MIT CSHub, contact NRMCA’s Tien Peng at 206-913-8535 or

National Ready Mixed Concrete Association