Life Cycle Analysis is a system of reviewing the entire history of a product to account for the total impact on the environment. Also known as cradle-to-grave analysis, the process includes analysis of processing of raw materials, manufacturing process, and distribution process to bring a product to market. I also should include an account of the disposal of the product.
This analysis is especially important when selecting building materials for a sustainable structure. The embedded energy it takes to build a new building is incredibly high. A true green building design will look at ways to create a structure that will last 100+ years to offset the embedded energy it takes to create the structure. For instance, using a window that is made locally and is highly durable is much better for the environment than a window that is less money up front, but will begin to fail after only a few years and need to be replaced within 15.