David Barr - Gen Y

LCA Reveals Carbon Savings For LandCorp’s Gen Y Winner

The ‘Step House’ by David Barr Architects is the winner of the LandCorp Gen Y competition for unique and sustainable residential dwelling design concepts that encapsulated the Generation Y lifestyle.

The  project is located within LandCorp’s White Gum Valley, an innovative residential development located 3km from the Fremantle city centre. David Barr Architects conducted a full eTool Life Cycle Assessment of the project, which helped to inform additional innovative sustainable design features.

Some of the features include the installation of a 9kw PV system, low embodied energy materials, energy efficiency measures and low water use. The carbon emissions per occupant per year is estimated at 64kg, which is 98% lower than the average equivalent Australian residence.

Read more about the Gen Y project here >>

 

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How We Are Making LCA Available to Anyone, Anywhere

We’ve just done something huge. We have just dramatically reduced the cost of using the world’s leading web-based Life Cycle Design (LCD) tool for the built form…while at the same time increased it’s functionality.

Why, you ask?

To put it simply: We love the planet and we love problem solving.

Our number one goal for eTool is to solve a big problem: too much CO2e in buildings and infrastructure. Our aim of integrating LCD into as many built form projects as possible, provides a solution. We’ve already saved over 450,000 tonnes of CO2e from going into the atmosphere, and we always want to see that number rise. Making eToolLCD even more accessible in every sense, is another massive step on the path towards achieving our ultimate goal.

We’re biased but we can see the day when LCD is just a standard part of good design. While growing rapidly, it’s still a niche market and would probably favour a higher cost/lower volume product… but we are in it for the long haul. We want everyone to realise the benefits of integrating LCD into your projects today, without financial, geographical or even knowledge barriers. We provide tons of free resources on our website for anyone to teach themselves how to utilise LCD principles and our training has become probably the most affordable on the market, all without compromising quality or detail.

Now, there is no excuse. Even if you’re unsure about using eToolLCD or even if you just want to learn what it’s about, we offer free “Intro to Life Cycle Design of the Built Form” webinars and comprehensive training comes with our range of  software subscriptions (starting as low as only $10/month!). So, even if you can’t see yourself as a specialist software user, sign up just to receive the incredible training and learn why we are confident that LCD is the only way to get a truly sustainable building.

We invite you to join us for this exciting paradigm shift in sustainable design, help us meet our goals and achieve something positive for our planet.

– Alex Bruce

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eTool Joins CitySwitch

CitySwitch is a national program seeking to improve the energy efficiency of offices around Australia by encouraging commercial office tenants to commit to a number of energy efficiency measures and become a CitySwitch Green Office signatory. The City of Perth offers a local CitySwitch program that provides resources and assistance to commercial tenants pledging the commitments of the CitySwitch program.

To become a CitySwitch Green Office signatory, organisations are required to commit to:

  • Commence a benchmark NABERS Energy tenancy rating of their office within 3 months
  • Develop and implement an Energy Action Plan to achieve and maintain a 4 stars or higher accredited NABERS Energy tenancy
  • Appoint an Energy Manager to monitor actual performance
  • Request a NABERS Energy base building rating from the building owner/manager
  • Promote energy efficiency to staff, customers and suppliers and share their experiences with other Signatories
  • Obtain an annual NABERS Energy Rating and provide feedback on their success in a formal Progress Report

The eTool & Cundall Perth office have committed to the above, and we encourage others to do the same!

 

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2014 GBCA Green Star LCA Credits

As part of the exciting Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) Green Star 2014 Design & As Built release, Life Cycle Assessment has taken another step forward in establishing itself as a standard component of good design.

The new Life Cycle Impacts credit provides up to 7 points for projects achieving a performance improvement across six environmental impact categories.

While the total number of points has increased the performance requirement has also risen from what was a 100% accumulative improvement to now being 130%. Essentially, there are more points available but designs will have to push harder to get them – ultimately a good outcome for the planet.

While most of the criteria and requirements have remained the same since the draft credit was realised earlier this year, it is great to see it firmly established in the new tool. More details can be found on Page 141 of the Green Star Rating Tool Technical Manual.

“As the circular economy expands, our industry will need to understand how to work with LCA…to drive the next evolution of sustainability,” said Romily Madew, Chief Executive of the GBCA.

Since LCA was first included in Green Star last year with the Innovation Challenge, eTool has been successfully involved with over 12 separate Green Star projects. These have ranged from large office, retail and tertiary education buildings through to retirement villages and supermarkets. Several have already achieved their targeted Five Star Green Star accreditation and with one hitting Six Star.

“GBCA members Cundall and eTool deserve applause for recently working together to earn five Green Star points for a life cycle assessment for the Kings Square buildings in Perth.” (read article here)

All projects have successfully managed to obtain the points targeted through the LCA credit with teams quick to included eTool in additional and upcoming jobs.

More importantly, project teams are finding that by integrating a Life Cycle Design approach they are realising far greater opportunities for improving environmental performance. Furthermore, it has been giving these projects, the consultants working on them and the clients, a world leading edge.

“Life cycle assessment is not a fad, and will increasingly be understood as a smart business decision within a sustainable business model”, said Romily Madew.

Make sure you sign up to our upcoming LCA in Green Star webinar if you want to keep up with the rapidly growing demand or contact us if you have a project you’d like to discuss.

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The Green Swing Wins National HIA Award

We’d like to extend a huge congratulations to The Green Swing, whose developments have recently won the 2014 HIA GreenSmart Townhouse/Villa Development Award!

The Green Swing was started by a group of passionate Perth residents who decided to build their low carbon houses on a small plot in the Victoria Park suburb. They have won a number of awards due to their impressive environmental performance for the development. Check out their case study from their life cycle assessment on our projects page here.

A few other eTool clients also made it to the list of HIA GreenSmart awards. Congratulations to all! Check out the full list here.

 

The Green Swing - 2014 HIA GreenSmart Townhouse/Villa Development Winner

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LCA in Green Star – Perth leading the innovation challenge

When the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) released its new “Innovation Challenges” initiative in August this year, John Holland and Cundall were quick to respond and register Kings Square One (KS1) for the credit. KS1, developed by Leighton Properties, is located on the corner of King and Wellington Streets in Perth. Part of one of Australia’s most significant CBD urban renewal developments, the building will offer 23,156sqm of A Grade commercial office space across 19 levels with 680sqm of ground floor retail.

KS1_Plaza_Image3This progressive, high profile project is targeting a 5 Star Green Star Office Design and As Built v3 rating. Through the “Material Life Cycle Impacts” Innovation Challenge, six points are made available if substantial improvement in whole of building, whole of life LCA, can be demonstrated. This is where eTool comes in. eTool has joined the team to provide LCA consulting and software services to assist in modelling and improving the design.

The guidelines surrounding the Innovation Challenge are rigorous and comprehensive, including requirements to follow European Standard EN 15978 “Sustainability of Construction Works” and International Standard ISO 14044 “Environmental management – life cycle assessment”. eTool LCA software has been specifically developed to assess the built form and is therefore well positioned to meet the credit’s requirements and, more importantly, provides rapid and valuable design input to meet targeted improvements with ease.

Find out more about the Kings Square One project >> 

If you would like to discuss the technical details of the “Innovation Challenge” or see how eTool can assist with your Green Star project, please get in touch today.

 

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Building Performance in Practice

Small House, Heavenly Court

The “Small House” was one of the first projects ever certified by eTool. Key features of the original 3 bedroom design included a lightweight timber frame, small 2 storey footprint and 6 star NatHERS thermal performance rating. John and Betty Saunders moved into the house in December 2012 and we thought it was time to pay them a little visit and see how the house is actually performing. There is a large gap perceived in the building industry between performance ‘As Designed’ and ‘As Built’. eTool has committed to auditing 1% of all projects. Through checking ‘As Built’ drawings, energy bills and site visits we hope to gain a better understanding of where anomalies lie and hopefully help bridge the performance gap.

Initial Reactions

Approaching the dwelling from the main road it clearly stands out amongst its surroundings. The double storey building sits on a plot much smaller than its neighbours whilst still boasting a large garden space. The use of space is far more economical than neighbouring buildings which mostly stretch right to the boundary of their plots – there is even room for a number of fruit trees and native plants which are scattered around the edges of the lawn.

Stepping into the house it is obvious that the design has been carefully thought through. The large north facing windows and open plan layout allow for plenty of natural daylight and the temperature on this fairly chilly July morning is very comfortable. John informs me that they have not required heating all winter – quite impressive for a building that only passes the current regulatory thermal performance requirement of 6 stars. Walking around the house it is barely noticeable that there are almost no windows on the south facing wall as the main rooms are located towards the north. The master bedroom does have a westerly facing window which will let in a lot of heat during summer months, however it also provides good cross-flow ventilation from the afternoon sea breeze and there are plans to install a pergola over the window. The Saunders only require the reverse cycle heat pump during the very warm 32 degree plus days when there is little breeze.

Performance

Real data has been obtained in the form of energy bills which combined with an audit of all appliances provides a reasonable picture of what the main uses of electricity are. The last electricity bills show a consumption averaging 5kWh per day which is 75% less than the average of 15 units for 2 person households in the area. Including the generation from PV which is likely to offset most of the daytime consumption, the total electricity consumption is estimated at around 7.3 units which is pretty close to the 8.4 units predicted by eTool LCA during the design stages.

 

Small House LCD 2

 

As well as a reduction in the energy required for thermal comfort, the house has lower carbon impacts associated with cooking. This is because an electric cooker and stove was assumed in design stages whereas a gas stove and electric oven have actually been installed. (For further info on gas versus electricity see here). There are also a number of ‘smart’ appliances including:-

Refrigerator – as well as being in a well ventilated space (for more on fridge ventilation see here) the fridge has a “holiday mode” as well as sounding an alarm when the door is left open.

Kettle – the kettle has the ability to set the temperature required. Any tea or coffee aficionados amongst you will know that the perfect coffee temperature is around 90 degrees and the perfect tea around 80. This simple function has relatively large savings due to the fact that it takes much more energy to convert water to steam (at boiling point) than it does to heat water by a single degree.

Drying line – The garage was not in the original design and adds slightly to the embodied energy of the building, however the side doors are located such that a good through draft occurs in the afternoon which is perfect for drying clothes without worrying about the rain.

The increase in the “other” category is largely down to the sophistication of the calculation during the design stage. This appliances template has since been updated a number of times and now splits the other category further into dishwasher, clothes dryers, workshops and all other appliances.

The embodied impacts are close to those predicted during design stages. There is an increase in the fittings category due to embodied impacts of electrical and light fixtures not being accounted for originally.  The increase in internal finish is because the buildings’ ground floor is finished with ceramic tiles which were not assumed in the design stage.

Silver medal house, gold medal people

The building as designed represents a 52% CO2e saving over the benchmark which is an eTool Silver Medal rating.  As built, the building does much better, achieving a 116% saving which is an eTool Gold Medal rating

The performance of the Small House is down to a lot more than good design. The Saunders are clearly conscious of their own environmental footprint and feel strongly that “if today’s humans don’t live more sustainably, then our children and grandchildren will suffer the consequences”. They have a sustainable lifestyle that aligns closely with their sustainable home – their electric scooters, for example, (powered by batteries charged from the PV panels) get them to Bunbury and back on a single charge and they even purchase large bags of fruit on offer and use a de-hydrator so that they keep for longer. According to NatHERS a 6 star house of this size should require around 3000MJ per year to maintain thermal comfort, however John and Betty require only around half of this. Although there are obvious deficiencies in the NatHERS methodology[1] the key difference is down to occupant behaviour more than anything else. The eTool Medal rating has risen to Gold because the occupants are making the best with what they have. Likewise it is all too easy for a house to be designed to Gold standards but fall far below that in practise because the occupants have all the gear and no idea.

This raises a very important point – as engineers we focus primarily on good, low carbon design and innovation, however occupant behaviour has an equally important role to play in reducing our environmental impacts. Persuading people to put an extra jumper on in the winter perhaps presents a far greater challenge than some of the more tangible aspects of delivering a low carbon society.

Read the original case study of Heavenly Court here >>

 


[1] Namely a lack of monitored data to support the calculations, questionable accounting for thermal mass, lack of air-tightness or thermal bridging calculations, no account of equipment efficiency or fuel source.

ESD Australia

Design Vs Actual Performance

Does the design really perform once the software model is complete and the occupants move in?

In the design space there are so many models and tools we can use to help inform the way we create our buildings. But as much as we like to put our faith in our design skills, there are lots of assumptions, model boundaries, data limitations, user errors and uncontrollable variables (like the building occupants). So while don’t really like to admit it, there is still a mild level of finger crossing when we get to review the real performance of a building in operation. At eTool we’ve put nearly four years into developing our “Life Cycle Design” methodology within the “eTool LCA” design software but we are still learning and improving.

So when we get to review our buildings a few years on and find that they are performing as predicted, we have a little mini celebration inside, and on the outside say “yep… always knew it would”. What’s really nice is to then feed that information back into the model to help refine those assumptions, boundaries, data limitations and most importantly improve the skills of  the ‘designer’.

A fantastic example of this process is ESD Australia, one of Western Australia’s leading building consultancy firms, specialising in energy and building compliance for residential and commercial developments.

With some other commercial rating systems out of reach budget wise for small commercial buildings, eTool LCA proved the perfect (and arguably more comprehensive) solution for the ESD Australia team when designing their own new office. The building design had great functionality with good service life and occupancy, combined with good material selection, high thermal performance and small scale renewable energy generation. The end result was a building that was predicted to produce more energy than it consumed with a 114% improvement in carbon footprint on a “compliant” design.

“It was great to be able to use eTool and a “Life Cycle Design” approach to see how the entire building might perform rather than just the individual elements that other rating systems focus on. Now that we’ve been operating in the building for 2 years, it’s wonderful to see the building performing as expected with a 6 NABERS rating and reaffirming our design choice,” says Daniel Smee, Director, ESD Australia.

NABERS is a government administered national rating system that provides a platform for rating commercial buildings against their performance through analysis of actual energy bills rather than a modelled design. It’s a rating out of six stars so ESD Australia’s office is considered to be “market-leading”. It shows that by utilising eTool LCA in the design process you are not only achieve fantastic outcomes but also can predict with confidence how you will perform against NABERS once built.

At eTool, we like to say “it’s better to be vaguely right rather than to be precisely wrong”. I guess what we mean is that as long as the end result is a better building than what was originally proposed then we are happy even if it’s not 100% spot on. The great thing about the process is that for every project we work on we have a lovely feedback loop that ensures that everyone who uses the “eTool LCA” design software gains from this knowledge and collectively improving the buildings we design.

So, while we will always do some finger crossing once we hand over the design to the occupants, we are enjoying the confidence that our buildings are continuing to improve and are performing better than predicted.

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British and Australian Sustainability Leaders Join Forces to Promote Low Carbon Building in UK

International leaders in sustainability are collaborating to utilise a new software tool that aims to revolutionise the way green buildings are designed, constructed and operated.

London based architecture firm HTA and sustainability social enterprise BioRegional – the pioneers behind the One Planet Living framework – today announced a new partnership with Australian environmental software developers eTool. The collaboration of architects, sustainability campaigners and environmental engineers into multi-disciplinary teams is fast becoming commonplace, with the new ‘business as usual’ putting the client and planet firmly at the top of the list.

Our One Planet Living framework is spreading around the globe, so it was natural for us to team up with leading innovators overseas like eTool that we can work with here in the UK and internationally. Improving quality of life at the same time as reducing our carbon footprint is part of everything we do, so to be able to accurately measure the impact of our development projects with LCA is an important step in learning the lessons, applying them to new projects and sharing them with others.”
– 
Pooran Desai – Co-Founder, BioRegional

The partnership will bring together diverse skills and knowledge of sustainable technologies and design solutions that have already proven successful in reducing the carbon footprint of buildings across Australia. Senior staff from both HTA and BioRegional will be trained to use eTool LCA, a web based Life Cycle Assessment tool that measures embodied and operational carbon, water, energy and cost of a whole building through its entire design life.

“It’s fantastic to work with companies that are as passionate as we are about what they do and are raising the bar in sustainable building in the UK. We’re extremely excited that eTool LCA will soon be integrated into projects overseas and demonstrate that low carbon design is achievable in all climates and regions, regardless of the weather or building style.”Alex Bruce – Director, eTool

With the government’s ambitious zero carbon 2016 target quickly approaching, newly accessible technologies such as whole building life cycle assessment represent a unique opportunity to reduce carbon impacts on a huge scale within a short period.

 “At HTA we try to be more than the sum of our many parts, bringing architecture, sustainability, and landscape disciplines together to produce high-quality sustainable places. We are delighted to be collaborating with eTool and BioRegional to extend our expertise into life-cycle assessment. We are keen to know more about the life-cycle impact of our buildings today which will influence the way we work tomorrow.” Rory Bergin – Head of Sustainability & Innovation, HTA

Bioregional’s award winning OneBrighton project will be showcased at EcoBuild 2013 in March and final eTool LCA results will be launched at the Eco Technology Show in June.

 

About eTool

eTool is a world leading life cycle software company that optimises building design for lower environmental impact and greater performance. Utilising their unique software eTool LCA®, they work with architects, engineers and developers to measure and improve the life cycle impacts of buildings, surpassing industry standards. From residential and commercial to development and infrastructure, eTool LCA® makes sustainable development easy to achieve and cost effective for all size projects.

 

Media Contact
Siobhan McGurrin
Marketing & Communications Manager
+61 (0) 8 6364 3805
Siobhan@etool.net.au

Josh’s House Episode Two

 

Construction of Josh’s House is now underway and in this episode Josh gets excited about the dual plumbing and grey water systems that are being installed. The team also speak to Ed Hauck from the WA Department of Water and catch up with Josh’s family Kellie, Lisa, Ollie and Caitlin.