Construction project designers are increasingly concerned with the impact of their work on energy and the environment, especially as certain aspects of construction and building envelope design are becoming mandated by government codes, such as the California Title 24 Energy Code. In addition, change is being promoted through voluntary green building guidelines and techniques that assess environmental impacts associated with all the stages of a product's life, from cradle to grave.

Life cycle thinking for construction provides a comprehensive, balanced, quantified look at significant product environmental impacts. A life cycle assessment (LCA) is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate a product’s environmental attributes based on comprehensive analysis of life cycle impacts and transparent data. When a team focuses on life cycle thinking, they create designs that facilitate building materials reuse and consider the full life cycle of the buildings and materials – from extraction through occupancy and also deconstruction and recycling. By implementing strategies that maximize materials recovery, the overall embodied energy and greenhouse gas emissions of building materials are reduced.

SMDI is currently developing bills of materials for several prototype buildings, which will allow for a comparable study that will serve as the basis for future Whole Building Life Cycle Assessments.