The University of Calgary’s Faculty of Environmental Design is starting research in the emerging field of life cycle assessment (LCA)—a concept discussed often in our magazine.
Dr. Getachew Assefa, who worked for years as a senior researcher at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, has joined the U of C under the newly established Athena Chair in Life Cycle Assessment.
LCA evaluates and compares the full range of environmental impacts of products and services, in order to identify the least life cycle burdensome.
“We need to know the whole story about the buildings we produce—from the initial design phase and the type of materials used in construction, all the way through to the energy providers and waste management systems,” says Assefa. “There is a growing interest in this field both in the industry and consumers. And along with developing methods, tools and databases, we need to help communicate the information out to the end-users in an understandable format.”
Supported by FPInnovations—Forintek Division, Alberta Advanced Education and Technology and the Alberta Forestry Research Institute, the Athena Chair in Life Cycle Assessment is offered in collaboration with the Ontario-based Athena Institute and will focus on LCA application to new and existing buildings.
“This chair is particularly unique as it is held in the Faculty of Environmental Design rather than as a stand-alone chair,” says Assefa. “Being able to work closely with EVDS designers and researchers as well as the building and energy sectors and the Athena Institute will make this research even more relevant.”
Part of Assefa’s work will be integrating his LCA research into existing systems and proving that more environmentally friendly structures can also have economic advantages. “If you make a higher initial investment in a more energy-efficient building with smaller environmental footprint, you will more than recoup those costs over its full life cycle, which could be 50 years or more.”
EVDS Interim Dean Loraine Fowlow says the Athena Chair position will bring together a wide range of fields, scales, technologies, approaches, and sectors. “This means that Dr. Assefa will be in an excellent position to use his research to bridge across disciplines and areas of inquiry, both within EVDS, as well as externally into the larger academic and business communities.”