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KieranTimberlake Develops Tool to Measure Impact of Building Materials

Image credit: KieranTimberlake

Philadelphia-based architecture firm KieranTimberlake has released a new software application that allows designers to measure the environmental impact of building materials directly in a Revit model.

The application, called Tally, provides Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on demand, backed by GaBi data from PE International. Autodesk, the maker of Revit modeling software, supported development and testing for the application.

Tally is an environmental impact tool created by architects for the architecture industry, KieranTimberlake says. The application was developed using Autodesk’s Revit API to link BIM elements with a custom-designed LCA database. The tool combines material attributes, assembly details, and engineering and architectural specifications with environmental impact data to produce reports designers can use to analyze material selections. Users can track the environmental impact of materials across a range of categories, such as embodied energy and global warming potential.

Conducting LCAs for buildings and construction has been time- and labor-intensive, and most LCAs are performed after construction is already complete, KieranTimberlake says. Tally puts LCA information in the hands of the design team, enabling life cycle-based product decisions at the same pace and within the same working environment as building designs are generated.

KieranTimberlake says LCA is part of a larger framework for reducing the environmental impact of buildings, which includes current standards such as Passive House, Living Building Challenge, and the 2030 Challenge aimed at reducing energy consumption in buildings. As energy codes become more stringent and operations-related environmental impacts drop, the demand for LCA results is increasing. New standards, such as the United States Green Building Council’s LEED v4, reward project teams that utilize whole-building LCA via a new materials and resources credit.

KieranTimberlake says it conceived the application in 2008. The beta version was presented to feedback groups in 2012 during Greenbuild in San Francisco and at Autodesk University. In 2013, Tally underwent a nine-week beta-testing phase by architecture, engineering and construction firms including Arup, Snohetta and Lend Lease.

"Tally takes a big step in driving Life Cycle Assessment into the design process,” said Frances Yang, a structures and materials sustainability specialist at Arup. “It is appealing to designers because they don’t need to make a separate model for analysis, and it creates a streamlined and intuitive interface for designers to interact with their models. As with energy modeling tools, it matters that the person driving the model has access to deciding factors instead of waiting for third-party results. It’s important to close that gap so that iterations can be made faster."

In related software news, Hilton Worldwide recently announced that it saved nearly a quarter of a billion dollars from energy efficiency projects over the past four years, thanks in no small part to LightStay, a proprietary system to measure, analyze and report on sustainability data.


Based in San Francisco, Mike Hower is a sustainability strategist and storyteller on Edelman's Business + Social Purpose team where he works with some of the world's leading brands on corporate sustainability strategy and stakeholder engagement. With several years of… [Read more about Mike Hower]


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