Theme IV: Dynamic life cycle assessment (LCA) and business ecosystem modeling

This theme focuses on two important aspects: (a) Understanding the consequences of incorporating significant human behavior factors in life cycle assessment at building or community scale and the impact of such factors; and (b) defining a new method of integrating the business ecosystem concept to modeling of human-building ecosystems.

LCA and Scalability

Originally LCA stemmed from the needs of energy requirements and pollution prevention [12] from materials and products. Three types of LCA-based assessment methods are commonly available to applications in built environments, including process-based analysis [13-15], economic input-output analysis [16-18] and the hybrid approach [19-23]. The ISO 14000 series provides a standard framework for conducting LCA, which includes four steps, goal and scope, life cycle inventory analysis, life cycle impact assessment and interpretation. So far, life cycle assessment has been mainly applied to material and product analysis [24].

Life cycle assessments at a larger scale than materials or products, such as SHBE, are unique because the life cycle behavior of buildings or communities is different from that of building materials or products due to human factors. Building operations account for a large portion of energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions throughout the life cycle of a building. Occupant behaviors thus have a significant impact on energy consumption and GHG emissions.  Conceivably, the collective behavior of building occupants can have a significant impact on life cycle assessment. However, life cycle assessment is currently based on static models, and human behaviors are not considered. Understanding the impact of human behaviors on life cycle assessment at a building or community level can generate new knowledge about the significance of human behavior patterns from a life cycle perspective, and shed light on the need and method for developing a human-centered dynamic analytic model of life cycle assessment.

Business (Sub-) Ecosystem in Relation to Human-Building Ecosystem

James Moore is credited with coining the term “business ecosystem” and for pioneering the ecological approach to business operations/strategy in his seminal piece [25]. In this view, business activity is not seen as a result of market forces, market equilibriums, stocks and flows. Instead, businesses are viewed as co-existing in a complex ecosystem where they are intimately linked and co-evolving over time. This view assumes that both cooperative and competitive behavior can co-exist in an ecosystem, and that the ecosystem can significantly influence, whether to sustain or threaten, any firms in its midst. Researchers have proposed several models for sustainable business ecosystems [26, 27].

Viewing the human-building ecosystem in the context of the broader “Business Ecosystem” requires the inclusion of other factors that not only make the human-building ecosystem viable, but also make it economically feasible and appropriate for its community, state and federal mandates, and the planet’s natural ecosystem.This has implications on how construction materials, engineering systems, and the consumables are procured, and how their costs and benefits position the human-building ecosystem relative to other human-buildings ecosystems. Thus, strategic choice decisions relating to ecosystem optimization must be based on factors. both within the human-building ecosystem and between the human-building ecosystem and other entities that exist outside it.

The interfacing elements of this theme include exchange of data and inputs and outputs among two aspects. Both require the outputs from Themes I and II, and provide the inputs to Themes III and V.