The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released preliminary research findings this month that will help set a new standard in life-cycle assessment (LCA) modeling. The studies, which are part of an ongoing research initiative at the MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub, will quantify the cradle-to-grave life cycle costs and environmental benefits of concrete paving and building materials, and will ultimately result in the most comprehensive LCA model produced to-date.

“The findings and continued research are very exciting for Chaney Enterprises and all companies in our industry, and based upon the preliminary findings, can certainly give credible support that concrete is and has always been the leading building material in long-term economics and the environment,” said William F. Childs, IV, president and CEO of Chaney Enterprises.

The scope and detail of MIT’s LCA model will set their current efforts apart from previous work. According to MIT professor and research team leader John Ochsendorf, the expanded life-cycle window – 50 years for paving materials and 75 years for building materials – combined with the level of detailed analysis conducted on the use phase of structures and pavements will distinguish MIT’s latest research. Initial reports have shown the importance of including the use phase, with MIT researchers finding that more than 90 percent of residential building life-cycle carbon emissions and up to 85 percent of highway pavement emissions occur during this period. “The life-cycle model we are developing will combine the best data on the full range of costs – construction, maintenance, reconstruction, user, direct and indirect – with a time frame that reflects the real world life of pavements and building materials,” said Ochsendorf.

MIT is set to release a follow-up study in 2011 that will examine the economic costs to provide the most comprehensive analysis of the total costs of building and paving materials.