“Kaleidoscope is an incredible and much-needed sustainability tool for our industry that democratizes critical information in an easily accessible and visually compelling format to empower designers to make well-informed decisions at critical stages in the design process.” —Juror Kat Schneider
According to Architecture 2030, approximately 11% of global carbon emissions come from the embodied carbon in building materials and construction. To meet climate-change carbon-reduction goals, architects and engineers must evaluate the embodied carbon of materials—from building envelopes to flooring and ceilings—as early as possible in the design process.
In 2019, Boston-based Payette set out to create a simple and straightforward tool that allows designers to compare typical building systems, even without having a complex 3D model. The result is the open-source web-based tool Kaleidoscope, which was released to the public in 2021 and allows users to compare the embodied carbon across a range of façade and interior systems.
Payette team members—including Andrea Love, AIA, Melanie Silver, AIA, Rebecca McGee Sturgeon, AIA, Olivia Humphrey, Denise Blankenberger, AIA, and Mi Li—began by identifying typical detailing for the most utilized façade systems, developing 3D models of them, and finally running parametric THERM heat-flow simulations to account for thermal bridging and modified insulation to ensure all assemblies achieved the same thermal performance. Next, they used Tally, a life-cycle assessment app (and 2016 R+D Awards winner), and incorporated the data output into a graphic web interface. Payette then evaluated interior flooring and ceiling systems and made this data available as well.
Kaleidoscope allows users to compare assemblies through multiple lenses, such as by removing Module D, or the LCA impacts associated with reuse potential outside the system boundary, given the uncertainty of the end of life of materials. The data can also be viewed based on compliance with Payette’s Material Health Policy, which focuses on eliminating specific chemicals of concern: highly fluorinated chemicals, antimicrobials, flame retardants, and vinyl (PVC, CPVC, PVDC). Designers can compare options and combinations and evaluate global warming potential as well as cost per square foot.
Though Kaleidoscope isn’t intended to replace LCA tools, it makes it easier to bring the conversation about embodied carbon to the beginning design phase when materials are first identified, rather than wait to the end when a detailed BIM model is completed and making changes to the design becomes more costly.
Principal: Andrea Love, AIA, LEED Fellow
Co-primary investigator: Melanie Silver, AIA, LEED AP
Co-primary investigator: Becca McGee Sturgeon, AIA
Project researcher: Olivia Humphrey
Project researcher: Denise Blankenberger, AIA
Graphic designer: Mi Li