Within this work, life cycle assessment modeling is used to determine top design priorities and quantitatively inform sustainable design decision-making for a prefabricated modular building. A case-study life-cycle assessment was performed for a 5,000 ft2 prefabricated commercial building constructed in San Francisco, California, and scenario analysis was run examining the life cycle environmental impacts of various energy and material design substitutions, and a structural design change. Results show that even for a highly energy-efficient modular building, the top design priority is still minimizing operational energy impacts, since this strongly dominates the building life cycle's environmental impacts. However, as an energy-efficient building approaches net zero energy, manufacturing-phase impacts are dominant, and a new set of design priorities emerges. Transportation and end-of-life disposal impacts were of low to negligible importance in both cases.

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Author notes


Principal, Faludi Design, and Faculty, Minneapolis College of Art & Design. 1463 E. Republican st. #36A, Seattle WA 98112, [email protected].


Assistant Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University. 285B Yang and Yamazaki Energy and Environment Building, 473 Via Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305-4020, [email protected].


Principal and Founding Partner, Loisos + Ubbelohde Architects. 1917 Clement Ave Building 10A Alameda, CA 94501, [email protected].