Among architects determined to minimize buildings’ environmental impact, few have had the means to quantify the energy embodied in material sourcing, processing, and construction. The prevailing system of hiring a consultant to conduct a life-cycle assessment (LCA) or cradle-to-grave analysis was “separated from design,” says Billie Faircloth, AIA, a partner at Philadelphia-based KieranTimberlake.
The firm decided that architects should take the analysis into their own hands. It developed Tally, a plug-in application for Autodesk Revit that can perform an LCA on demand during the design process, when influential decisions can still be made. “This is something that badly needed to happen,” juror Mic Patterson said. “There is critical need for a simple, early-phase design tool to provide feedback related to the embodied energy impacts of material selection.”
Tally provides three types of analysis: whole building LCA, design-option comparison, and material selection. It draws upon an LCA database custom-developed by KieranTimberlake and sustainability consultant Thinkstep (formerly PE International) that combines environmental impact data with material attributes, assembly details, and specification information. It translates building-model elements into discrete materials and quantities, and generates an inventory or “bill of materials,” which updates automatically as the design model changes. And it outputs comprehensible charts and graphics, not just spreadsheets full of numbers.
“It’s holistic in thinking,” juror Doug Stockman, AIA, said. Juror Elizabeth Whittaker, AIA, remarked, “You can imagine this being absolutely necessary for any kind of building design. Finally: a method of life-cycle assessment that is user-friendly.”
Architects can compare the relative environmental impact of structural systems such as concrete, steel, and timber; or evaluate comparable materials, such as two insulation types with identical R-values. Conveniently, Tally can also provide scaled results based on a portion of a model, such as a 10-foot-square section. KieranTimberlake associate and researcher Roderick Bates says, “You run the assessment and then extrapolate it, even without a completed full building model.”
KieranTimberlake beta-tested the software with 400 architects, engineers, academics, and students before introducing Tally at Greenbuild 2013. “Our goal was to use the BIM platform to harness the information that is already nestled within these models and the knowledge within the team,” says KieranTimberlake associate and researcher Stephanie Carlisle.
Now commercially available through the Autodesk app store and KieranTimberlake’s affiliate company, KT Innovations, Tally was used by hundreds of firms and more than 50 academic institutions in the last year. The latest version, Tally 2017, contains updated graphics and enhanced capacity to interface with evolving material information, standards, and software. Faircloth says users can expect increasing specificity in the program’s output as more manufacturers file Environmental Product Declarations. Tally, Bates says, “is like a building that you never stop building.”
Design Firm: KieranTimberlake, Philadelphia · Stephen Kieran, FAIA, James Timberlake, FAIA, Roderick Bates, Stephanie Carlisle, Christopher Connock, Billie Faircloth, AIA, Elizabeth Friedlander, AIA, Ryan Welch (project team)
Development Partners: Autodesk; Thinkstep (previously PE International)
Project Team: Autodesk · Jonathan Rowe; Thinkstep · Heather Gadonniex, Nick Santero, Maggie Wildnauer
Special Thanks: Emma Stewart, Jacky Liang