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LCA brought to life in timber by RCA students

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Out of the Woods exhibition at the V&A

If the construction experience of the London 2012 Olympics has taught us one thing, it is that measuring impacts early can inform design decisions. Life cycle analysis (LCA) is one of those essential tools which can inform design but too often there is a disconnect between those with the quantitative skills for measuring and those doing the designing. So putting the designers and the ‘measurers’ together in a collaborative working environment should be a win-win, especially when it’s on a farm in Berkshire in July.

That’s exactly what led to Out of the Woods, an exhibition  at the V&A as part of the London Design Festival. Led by the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) in collaboration with furniture maker Benchmark, 12 RCA product design students have designed - and made - a chair using American hardwoods. Lectures on life cycle impacts  at the outset of the project set the issues in context for the students.

 Each student recorded the precise amount of material and energy used to fabricate the chair. Then sustainability consultancy P.E. International  combined the students’ data with LCA information on the different hardwoods supplied by AHEC to produce  an LCA report for each chair. Clever graphics in the excellent accompanying catalogue make the relative impacts of different design choices immediately clear. A must-read.

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