August 13 2008

Life Cycle Assessment: Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES 4.0)


The Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES 4.0) software is a free Life Cycle Assessment tool developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with the aim of empowering designers with a 'robust', user-friendly tool for making informed material decisions. Analysis is broken into two general categories, economic and environmental, which can be weighted against one another in both present and projected figures. Twelve 'impact categories'  further refine the LCA analysis by 'weighting' each criteria. The process helps establish a hierarchy for evaluating LCA and gives the user some flexibility when defining the importance of one criteria versus another. The resulting process allows a designer to capture and account for the breadth of environmental and economic considerations in one software package. BEES and software of the same genre will hopefully lead to buildings that fully manifest the ideas of stewardship and sustainability.BEES_Image 02

Version 4.0 of BEES is not a major overhaul from the three previous versions, adding only a few technical upgrades behind the scenes, a larger database of materials and a new weighting system for impact categories. Marginal interface improve ments were made, as illustrated by the same extremely cumbersome graphics and data reporting used since BEES version 1.0. The software is however a useful alternative to other more costly LCA tools, many of which do not have substantially better interfaces.

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I would say that BEES 4.0 is not for the faint of heart, timid, or designers just trying to greenwash a project. BEES 4.0 software is extremely useful to designers interested in finding out the LCA impact of products they may select, but the learning curve is steep and a considerable amount of data collection and analysis is required for custom LCA analyses.

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For more information please visit the BEES website or the original article (subscription/login required) from Environmental Building News.

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