LCA Background Data

The Athena Institute is committed to data quality – our software is respected because it is backed by the most current and reliable data available.

The Impact Estimator draws from LCI and LCA data files that are downloaded along with the software. These files are proprietary to the Athena Institute and are encrypted for security; they additionally are not appropriately viewed as stand-alone files because they are designed to work only in the context of the data integration undertaken by the Impact Estimator. However, it is the intent of the Athena Institute to provide as much transparency as possible regarding the data and inner workings of our software. Therefore, much of our data is available in reports downloadable from the Athena Institute web site.

Our embedded data is the result of on-going research since the inception of the Athena Institute, and is periodically updated as funding allows – either from our core funds, or according to client requests.

Data development by the Athena Institute includes life cycle inventories or life cycle assessments of specific industries, product groups, transportation, construction processes and maintenance tasks. Our work is always conducted in accordance with the ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards and other standards as appropriate, and compliant with our own strict research guidelines including internal review and, when warranted, external peer review.

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Interested in adding a material or system to our databases? Send us an e-mail with your contact information and we will follow up promptly.

Companion LCI Database Reports

The LCI Database Reports Series, an online companion to the ATHENA Impact Estimator for Buildings, contains a set of life cycle inventory (LCI) and related reports commissioned by the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute to expand our knowledge base and support the Estimator software.

The LCI Database Reports, an online companion to the ATHENA Impact Estimator for Buildings, contains a series of life cycle inventory (LCI) and related reports commissioned by the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute to expand the our knowledge base and support the Estimator software (listed below).

These reports are the results of research conducted since the inception of the Athena Sustainable Materials Institute. This is the data underlying our software.

They are provided in this form to make our research and data development process transparent, recognizing that the LCI data is at the heart of the Estimator.

The Estimator is a software tool for assessing the relative life cycle environmental implications of alternative building designs, and is intended for use by architects, engineers and researchers at the conceptual design stage. One objective is to put environmental considerations on a footing with other more traditional decision criteria. The Estimator makes the process relatively simple because the Institute has already done the LCI work and users of the software need not be concerned about this complex and costly step. But many users want to be assured about the quality of the data, and to better understand how it was developed. They naturally want the Estimator to be more than a ‘black box’, so that they can feel confident using the results and advising clients accordingly. The reports listed below are intended to provide that understanding and assurance.

Institute studies and publications fall into two general categories:

  • Investigative or exploratory studies intended to further general understanding of life cycle assessment (LCA) as it applies to building materials and buildings;
  • Individual LCI studies that deal with specific industries, product groups or building life cycle stages.

All studies in this latter category are firmly grounded on the principles and practices of life cycle assessment, and follow our published research guidelines (included in the reports), which define boundary or scope conditions and ensure equal treatment of all building materials and products in terms of assumptions, research decisions, estimating methods and other aspects of the work.

However, integration of the LCI data is a primary function of the Estimator itself, and we therefore caution that individual LCI reports are not necessarily stand-alone documents. For example, a report may specify the amount of electricity used in production processes without taking account of the primary energy required to generate that electricity. Similarly, a report may include estimates of transportation requirements in mode and distance terms without including the energy use and emissions associated with that transportation. The essential missing energy production, conversion, and use estimates are the subject of entirely separate databases embedded in the Estimator.

In some situations, the Estimator also calls on related product databases to complete a calculation. For example, the report on concrete products includes estimates of reinforcing steel requirements, but the concrete report does not include the effects of producing that steel. Those effects are the subject of the separate steel report, and the Estimator calls on databases from both reports to complete its calculations.

The Institute will continue to expand and update its databases and further develop the ATHENA Impact Estimator for Buildings. We are committed to developing current, reliable data, to making it available in a readily usable form, and to maintaining research transparency.

List of Companion Reports

LCI Database Details
Investigative Studies


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