MIT team develops lifecycle analysis software for architects

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have devised software that allows architects to see how their design choices will affect the building throughout its entire life.

Franz-Josef Ulm, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, said if architects considered the lifecycle impact of particular choices, it was usually at the end of the design process. He said the software was aimed at getting them to use it as a design tool.

However, the team wanted to gauge the effect this had on the architect’s freedom, so they looked at how a range of factors affected the design process.

These include: climate, the building’s dimensions and orientation, the ratio of walls to windows on each side, the materials used, and so on. As each of these factors is decided, the range of possibilities for the building get narrower.

Although Ulm presumed the lifecycle analysis would restrict design flexibility, he said this was not the case. "The results proved me wrong," he said.

Ulm added that the use of lifecycle tools could cut total greenhouse gas emissions by 75% "without a reduction in the flexibility of the design process".

Image courtesy of MIT/Randy Kirchain

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