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BEES: Now Buzzing Online
BEES is now available online as a free web-based application. This is terrific news for Mac users who were previously frozen out of the LCA tool. Aagh! So frustrating for those of us (ahem, me!) who wanted access to the actual environmental and economic performance data for 230 building products that BEES offers. Everyone will benefit from the site's ability to quickly add new and updated information as well as new building products.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the driving force behind BEES. Its purpose is to develop and implement a systematic methodology for selecting building products that achieve the most appropriate balance between environmental and economic performance based on the decision maker's values. The methodology is based on consensus standards, specifically ISO 14040 and ASTM methodology, and is designed to be practical, flexible, and transparent. Results are delivered in a user-friendly visually intuitive graphical format.
However, life cycle assessments are complex. BEES software simplifies the process but the concepts remain difficult. One of the problems may be the summative LCA score. BuildingGreen's Product Certification Report explains it this way. An LCA typically produces an aggregate of attribute impact scores "to create a cumulative score...critics have likened that practice to adding sugar, fat, and protein numbers on a nutritional label to get a single score."
NIST offers a useful tool for interpreting environmental performance scores, and has made great strides in moving toward the potential of LCA in evaluating building products. Criticisms center more on the state of life cycle analysis than BEES itself and the online availability is just terrific. Welcome to the cloud.