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Analyzing Building Energy Models from a Life Cycle Perspective

Saunders, Christi (2012) Analyzing Building Energy Models from a Life Cycle Perspective. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a quantitative tool used to evaluate the environmental impacts of products or processes. With respect to buildings, LCA can be used to evaluate the environmental impacts of an entire building life cycle. Currently, LCA in the building area is used in a limited capacity, and primarily for selecting building products. In order to determine the causality for the lack of whole building LCAs, focus groups with members of the architecture, engineering, construction (AEC) communities were held. This research ascertains first the current level of knowledge of LCA in the AEC community and then discusses the benefits and barriers to the practice of LCA. From the focus group results, the most important benefit to LCA was: Provides information about environmental impacts. The results did not identify a prominent barrier; however, building-related metrics were ascertained to be one of the more crucial barriers.
One limitation of LCA is the uncertainty associated with its results, which in this research is exemplified in the correlation between LCA and building energy models. In past research, results from energy models have been utilized to calculate life cycle operating energy of buildings in order to predict environmental impacts through LCA. Due to assumptions and variations between input data, past research has indicated substantial error rates in energy model results. In order to employ a life cycle perspective, the relationship between total life cycle energy use and energy modeling results has been studied. The main question guiding this research was: what is the acceptable error rate between predicted and actual life cycle energy use? Three different energy modeling programs with varying levels of detail were utilized to generate energy data for a case study, low energy home. EnergyPlus, Energy-10, and GBS all indicated error rates of 41%, 70%, and 20% respectively regarding life cycle primary energy consumption.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorBilec, Melissa M.mbilec@engr.pitt.eduMBILEC
Committee MemberLandis, Amyael30@pitt.eduAEL30
Committee MemberJones, Alexakjones@pitt.eduAKJONES
Date: 4 June 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 21 March 2012
Approval Date: 4 June 2012
Submission Date: 4 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 134
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Civil and Environmental Engineering
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Life Cycle Assessment Buildings Energy Modeling Life Cycle Energy
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2012 17:04
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


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