Athena Model

Athena Model logo.

Practical, easy-to-use decision support tool that provides high quality environmental data and assists with the complex evaluations required to make informed environmental choices. Our goal is to encourage the selection of material mixes and other design options that will minimize a building's potential life cycle environmental impacts and foster sustainable development. While there is a growing desire to put the environment on an equal footing with cost and other conventional design and product performance criteria, the task is by no means simple. It requires current, reliable and comparable environmental data in readily usable forms. The notion of Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been generally accepted within the environmental research community as the only legitimate basis on which to compare alternative materials, components and services.

With Athena all the basic LCA work is done out of the sight and mind of the user. Give Athena a design for all or part of a building and you get back an environmental profile without having to be concerned with the intricacies of LCA or even knowing you are doing LCA. Better still enter two or more comparable conceptual designs and Athena will compare them across as many as six environmental measures.


life cycle assessment, environment, building materials, buildings



Expertise Required



Approximately 100 beta testers and informal users.


architects, engineers, designers, environmental consultants


Using Athena's own graphical user interface, you first enter a general description of your building project, including its location. You then specify one or more comparable designs by selecting from typical assemblies or by entering specific quantities of individual products. Depending on the assembly, the user may have to answer prompts about floor or wall areas, working loads and spans, or other conceptual design information. Users may choose to work in either SI or Imperial units.


The model breaks down the selected assemblies comprising a design into their respective products for the purpose of applying the model's life cycle inventory (LCI) databases that contain estimates of the environmental effects per unit of each building product. The inventory data includes natural resource, energy and water inputs to processes as well as emissions to air, water and land for the manufacture, transportation and use of all of the individual building products.

Athena model users may either consult detailed inventory results or have Athena compare and contrast two or more designs across six predefined environmental measures covering embodied energy, resource use, air and water pollution, greenhouse gas effects and total solid wastes produced. Users may also have results reported in absolute terms, on a sq. footage basis or normalized to a particular benchmark design.

Computer Platform

PC with 150 Mhz Pentium, 32 Mbytes RAM, 4 Mbytes free disk space, Windows 95/98

Programming Language

Visual C++


High quality, regionally sensitive databases, user-friendly interface, provides both detailed and aggregated results, and superior assembly and complete design comparison capability. It is "FREE" at this time for testing and use.


Limited to structural materials and assemblies. Right now the Athena model only contains databases for wood, steel and concrete products used in structural applications from cradle-to completion of the building site. But 'cradle to site' LCI databases have also been developed and will shortly be added for a range of cladding products, insulation and barrier materials, gypsum wallboard and related finishing materials, and selected glazing and window framing options. We will also be adding relevant occupancy/use and "end-of-life" activity stages to complete the building life cycle.



Athena Sustainable Materials Institute


8 Granville Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario K1Y 0M4


+1 (613) 722-8075


+1 (613) 722-9628




A Beta version of Athena 1.2 is currently available free from the Athena website. Be sure to also download the users manual as there is very limited technical support for this FREE version of the model.