What is the impact of structural system choice on lifecycle assessment and embodied carbon emissions?

Graphic Name:

What is the impact of structural system choice on lifecycle assessment and embodied carbon emissions?

Submitted By:

Thomas Gibbons

Firm Name:

Eskew + Dumez + Ripple

Other contributors or acknowledgements (optional):

Ian O'Cain, Z Smith, Haley Allen

What tools did you use to create the graphic?

Project Information

What are the primary inputs of the analysis/analyses included in the case study?

Structural systems

What are the primary outputs/metrics of the analysis/analyses included in this case study?

LB CO2 released per SF construction

Gross Floor Area of Project Covered by Analysis


ASHRAE Climate Zone


Project Zip Code (optional)

Primary Building/Space Type Covered by Analysis
  • Office
If you selected 'Mixed Use' on the previous question, what are the different uses?


List the investigations questions that drove your analysis process.

As parking needs change, what are the CO2-specific implications between building a garage, demolishing it and building office space in its place versus building a garage that could work structurally for parking and then be converted to office? Further analysis was done on the impacts of building a "light" precast garage that would be demolished (partially or fully) versus a "heavy" precast garage that could be converted into future office space.

Who performed the simulation analysis? (select all that apply)
  • Architect - Design Staff
What tools were used for the simulation analysis? (select all that apply)
  • Autodesk Insight 360
What phase of the project was analysis conducted? (select all that apply)
  • Schematic Design
How was simulation integrated into the overall design process?

The project did not use Insight 360. The project used Tally (an lifecycle assessment plugin for Revit) along with a fair amount of excel cleanup / crunching. The analysis was an attempt to work with the owner in deciding between the monetary impacts and carbon impacts of their structural choices in the present weighed against their future growth and plans for their site.

How did you set up the simulation analysis and workflow?

The experiment was done in Revit. The structural systems were generally modeled based on sketches from the design team and structural engineers. The model was updated as questions changed ("light" versus "heavy" precast versus cast-in-place, etc).

How did you visualize the results to the design team? What was successful about the graphics that you used to communicate the data?

Simplifying greenhouse gas emissions data can be a challenge. Certain software report out simplified graphics however even these are often incomprehensible to the untrained. The graphics simplified the data in a way that was digestible and easy to understand for a discerning owner.

Most importantly, what did you learn from the investigation? How did simulation and its outputs influence the design of the project?

This analysis is not based on operational energy modeling / analysis however we as architects hope that over time the use of renewables for delivered-energy as well as onsite renewables for site energy will make design decisions related directly to embodied energy more important. Such analyses also help us look at future tradeoffs of renovation versus demolition as it pertains to the impact of a carbon tax.

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