The Business Case for LCA Indicators in Real Estate

The Business Case for LCA Indicators in Real Estate

By Martin Smith

Update (11/9/2016): The WBCSD has just published the results of the surveys sent out below in a full case study report, which is downloadable here.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is an organization made up of over 200 companies, who represent all business sectors, all continents, and have a combined revenue of over $7 trillion U.S. dollars. From their website, the WBCSD “galvanizes the global business community to create a sustainable future for business, society and the environment.” Many of the sustainability initiatives that have spurred out of the WBCSD are related to the built environment. The WBCSD’s Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) project, launched in 2013, has created a building energy efficiency toolkit for organizations, which focuses on the business case for saving energy and is illustrated with good practices from companies. WBCSD called on all of the organizations involved with the EEB project to sign their Manifesto for Energy Efficiency in Buildings—by signing the Manifesto, companies can “walk the talk” and send a strong message to the market, stakeholders, and employees.

Much like the EEB project that makes the business case for energy efficiency in buildings, WBCSD is developing a new report that examines the business case for specific environmental life cycle indicators in real estate. This report will address questions such as: “Which stakeholders of the built environment sector are using environmental life cycle indicators in their decision-making processes today?”; “What environmental life cycle indicators are these stakeholders using?”; and “What is the business case for existing environmental life cycle indicators?”

The overall goal of developing a clear business case for incorporating life cycle thinking into the real estate sector is to clear up and possibly eliminate the disconnect that occurs during project turnover points in the value chain. Whether it’s the real estate developer passing over the requirements to the design team, or the design team handing over the architectural plans to the contractors, there seems to be a misalignment due to differing priorities and incentives. This report is attempting to bridge the gap between various players along the real estate value chain by creating the business case for environmental indicators, and establishing a common language to be used by all stakeholders.


Participate in the Study

In order to gain a complete understanding of how many different stakeholders along the real estate value chain view environmental life cycle indicators, the WBCSD has created and distributed a survey. Real estate industry professionals completing this survey will aid in the development of a common language for life cycle assessment thinking. The results of the survey will be collected and summarized in the WBCSD’s “Report on the Business Case for Life Cycle Environmental Indicators,” which will be shared with those who participated. The survey is available here, and will be live until August 1st. Verdical Group’s Founder and Principal, Drew Shula, recently completed this survey on behalf of the company. Verdical Group has direct experience working with LCA’s in the LEED rating system, where project teams may gain multiple points under the “Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction” credit.


One of the pages from the WBCSD survey discussed above (note: the boxes seen here were randomly checked for this image)