Last edited 08 Oct 2021

Life cycle in the built environment


In terms of the built environment, ‘life cycle’ refers to a product, building or service over the course of its whole life. For example, relation to a building, this would include its design, construction, operation, and disposal. Considering the life full cycle of a building can help ensure that all aspects are properly considered, rather than just the cost of construction.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method for evaluating the environmental load of processes and products during their life cycle. An LCA attempts to identify the environmental effects during all stages of its life and produces a figure (or several figures) that represent the total environmental load. In a full LCA, the energy and materials used, along with waste and pollutants produced as a consequence of a product or activity are quantified.

The term ‘cradle-to-grave’ is an approach for defining the boundaries of an embodied energy assessment which involves measuring or estimating the total energy consumed through the entire life cycle of a building or product.

In terms of life cycle costs, whole-life costs consider all those that are associated with the life of a building, from inception to construction, occupation and operation and disposal.

NB Government Functional Standard, GovS 002: Project delivery; portfolio, programme and project management, Version: 2.0, published on 15 July 2021 by HM Government, states: ‘The life cycle provides a phased structure for governing the work and underpinning the delivery plan, from start to finish. Life cycles can be applied to a portfolio, service, product, system, programme or project.’

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