With the tremendous uptake of residential solar PV installations all around the world, the next question that often comes to mind is: to stay grid connected or go off-grid? For most people who are concerned about environmental issues, they might be led to believe that completely weaning off our fossil fuel powered grid is the truest form of sustainable living. However, here at eTool we like to challenge people’s beliefs based on data from life-cycle analysis.
To start, let’s quickly look at the difference between the two systems.
A grid-tied system is connected to the utility grid. In new systems, there is only one meter that measures both in-coming and out-going power to the house. Power generated from the solar panels goes through the inverter which converts DC to AC which then used throughout the house. Any left-over power that is not used goes out to the meter where it is measured then fed into the grid to be consumed elsewhere. This system has no on-site battery storage so any solar power that is not used at the time it is generated will be fed directly out to the grid. When no energy is generated by the solar panels such as at night or on overcast days, power will be drawn back from the grid to supply the house.
An off-grid system means that the system has no connection to the grid at all. In this situation, battery storage is necessary in order to provide power to the house when there is no power generated by the PV system. An additional on-site generator may also be required as a backup in case the stored power runs out. In this system, the power from the solar panels goes through a charge controller or battery regulator then into the battery bank for storage. On demand, the power is drawn from the batteries through an inverter then to the house to be used. If the power stored in the batteries run out, a generator can be started to produce backup energy.
Carbon Intensive Grids
|AU Standard||Structure – timber + double brick
Cooking – Electric
HWS – Gas storage
HVAC – Airsource heat pump (MEPS ave)
Lighting – CFL
Refrigeration – AU average
Water – AU average
In order to compare the systems, we will use LCA to quantify the impacts in CO2e. We assume that all other factors are constant such as water, gas and the carbon intensity of the grid. The table above shows the building structure and appliance specifications for a standard Australian detached home. Only the PV systems will change in order to better compare the difference between grid-tied and off-grid.
The graphs above shows the life-cycle carbon impact of a standard Australian home with no PV system installed. We can see that the life-cycle energy of the building takes up the largest portion of the overall impacts of the building. The graph on the right shows the end-use breakdown of the standard Australian household’s energy use.
The blue column on the left in Graph 2 above is a standard Australian home with no PV. The red column is an off-grid system sized to provide 100% solar power throughout the year. This is a 15kW PV with about 100kWh of battery storage to provide backup power for 3 days while the green column is the grid-tied version with 15kW of PV without battery storage. The orange& dotted columns show the impact of a smaller off-grid 8.5kW PV system with 60kWh of battery storage. The dotted orange column has an additional backup diesel generator that provides 10% of the energy demand. The teal column on the right is the grid-tied equivalent with 8.5kW PV and no diesel backup or battery storage.
We can see that installing a PV system alone has a significant effect at reducing the CO2e impact of the building. Note that despite a near two-fold increase in the amount of PV, the life-cycle carbon savings in the off-grid system only has marginal improvement when compared to the grid-tied system. This is due to the high embodied impacts of the larger PV system which are underutilized in the off-grid system whereas in the grid-tied system all extra power generated by the over-sized system is fed into the grid.
In the graph above, we compare the category breakdown of the 15kW PV systems versus the AU standard home, we can see that while the life-cycle energy use of the solar powered homes have dropped significantly, the recurring impacts on the other hand have increased due to the impacts related to replacing PV panels and batteries.
Low Carbon Intensity Grids
In areas with cleaner grids, in this example I’ve used the Tasmanian grid (even though it is still connected to the NEM) – is a grid-tied PV system still relevant?
The graph above shows that although the proportion of savings is much less in a low-carbon grid, a grid-tied PV system still has a lower life-cycle CO2e impact compared to an off-grid system. In areas with cleaner grids, the embodied energy impact of the building becomes proportionately more important than the operational energy as shown in the graph below.
Best Practice Design
How about a house that is designed by someone who knows what sustainability is about? Let say they designed using low-embodied energy materials and didn’t install any air-conditioners – how would such a house compare? The low-impact or ‘best practice’ design building assumes that the occupants are more sustainably conscious and try to reduce electricity demand as much as possible in the choice of appliances they will use and are more likely to build with low embodied impact materials such mud brick. A detailed list of specifications in the ‘best practice’ house are listed below while still assuming Australian averages for water and refrigeration energy use. Based on these specifications, the off-grid ‘best practice’ home will need 4kW of PV and 48kWh of battery storage assuming 10% of the energy demand to be provided by a diesel generator.
|Best Practice||Structure – mud brick
Cooking – Wood
HWS – biomass
HVAC – ceiling fans+wood pellet heater
Lighting – LED
Refrigeration – AU average
Water – AU average
PV – 4kW
Off-grid Backup – 48kWh battery storage + diesel generator
The graphs below show the global warming impact of a ‘best practice’ home on an Australian average grid the embodied and operation energy breakdown and the carbon impacts on a low-carbon grid. Even though the overall life-cycle carbon impacts of the building has dropped significantly due to the ‘best practice’ design, the results still indicate that being grid-connected is better for the environment in both grid situations.
In areas with carbon intensive grids such as Australia, it is important to help ‘clean up’ the grid by staying grid-connected with our PV systems. This is due to the fact that all the excess potential energy from off-grid PV panels is ‘wasted’ instead of captured to be used elsewhere. An off-grid setup will usually have a PV system that is large enough to meet most of the energy demand of the household throughout the year. This means that the system will be sized to produce enough power in winter but in summer when there is more daylight, the extra electricity generated by the system will be wasted.
A grid-tied system on the other hand is able to take advantage of an existing energy network and maximise the energy generation potential of their PV systems as any excess energy is fed back into the grid to be utilised elsewhere. This means that the embodied energy of the building can also be offset when the building produces more renewable energy than it consumes throughout its life.
A cleaner grid also means that other homes, offices and industries such as water desalination plants and manufacturers that use this cleaner electricity will be less carbon intensive. We all benefit from the knock-on effects of staying grid-connected.
For areas where the grid is already ‘clean’, the operational energy impacts become less significant from a carbon perspective but you’re still better to have grid-tied PV. Staying connected in a green-grid also helps avoid the additional embodied impacts from an oversized PV & battery storage system.
Bear in mind that there are other resources and technologies that haven’t been modelled here which may provide better solutions by taking the best of both systems. For example, hybrid systems combine the advantages of grid connection with battery storage to help moderate grid loads. To provide an efficient solution to large scale energy distribution, ‘Smart Grid’ systems that monitor and control the grid’s energy distribution and production is the way to go. Combine smart grids with hybrid solar systems and the economics and efficiency of renewable energy distribution and supply grid will be greatly improved. Nevertheless, the underlying message still points to the fact that staying grid-tied is the key in order to stay most sustainably relevant today and in the future.
We love Life Cycle Design (LCD), which is why we’ve made it the core of our business.
On this 2015 Earth Day, we’re launching our ‘Love LCD’ campaign where we’ll be asking our team, and anyone who wants to join, why they love Life Cycle Design. There are lots of reasons to love it, and we hope that we can show you just how great it is.
Why Love LCD?
Reason #1: Life Cycle Assessment allows you to identify the sometimes surprising aspects of a design that can be improved.
Watch Pat Hermon talk about why he loves LCD:
Why do you love Life Cycle Design? Share it with us!
This post is designed to guide design teams during early design stages prior to any form of drawing mark-up. It describes a pathway of continuous building improvement through easy low hanging fruit strategies to incorporation of renewable technologies and advanced design principles. As sustainability becomes engrained in the construction industry it is important that stakeholders maintain an understanding of what the market expects both presently and going forwards into a low carbon future.
Achieving Targets – The Basics
Generally a multi-residential apartment building built to BCA standards (electric hot water, 6 star Nathers and standard air conditioner) will have approximately the same impacts as the benchmark average dwelling (4.2 tonnes/person/year). They tend to be smaller (less space to heat and cool), have longer design lives and high occupancy (reducing the impacts on a per person per year basis). The chart below represents the life cycle Impacts of a typical multi-residential apartment building.
Typically there are a number of “low hanging fruit” design improvements that are low cost and low risk to implement. The measures focus on operational energy which generally makes up 70%-80% of the total life cycle impacts. The measures are detailed below for a standard apartment building with a mix of one and 2 bed apartments, please note these are indicative figures and will vary depending on final design, density, services and materials used.
|Typical percentage improvement|
|Gas hot water system||25%-30%|
|Lighting motion sensors/timers in common areas||6%-8%|
|Apartment Energy Monitoring||2%-4%|
|Behavioural Change Programs||2%-4%|
|Low flow shower heads (5l/minute)||1%-2%|
|Limit refrigeration space to less than 750mm||0.6%-0.7%|
|Ventilated refrigeration cabinetry||0.4%-5%|
With implementation of the above measures the building will achieve approximately a 37% to 45% improvement sitting at a Silver medal rating. To achieve greater improvements renewable technologies are needed.
|Renewable Technology||Typical percentage improvement|
|Solar Hot Water (1m2 per dwelling)||3%-4%|
|Solar PV (1kW/ 10m2 per apartment)||5%-7%|
The majority of medium rise flat roofs can easily accommodate the above with room left over for other elements such as flues and skylights. The low hanging fruit combined with some renewable generation will typically achieve around a 45-55% improvement.
Achieving Targets – Best Practise
For higher ratings to be achieved, there will need to be upwards of 1 kW and per apartment and over 10m2 of roof space available alongside the measures detailed above. This can require careful consideration of roof designs from the outside and in some instances, consideration of options off-site such as community owned solar PV farms may be required.
|Renewable Technology||Typical percentage improvement|
|Solar PV (2kW/ 20m2 per apartment)||10%-14%|
|Solar PV (3kW/ 30m2 per apartment)||15%-20%|
|Solar PV (4kW/ 40m2 per apartment)||20%-28%|
Roof Orientation for PV:
Once a residential building gets above 4 storeys, or a commercial building gets above 3 storeys, it will likely end up in a position where the solar technologies that are required are constrained by the roof space that is available. In this situation the design team should take roof design into consideration from an early stage and optimise it for solar panel installations. The following guidelines should be considered:
- By installing panels “flat” on a roof, many moor panels can fit because they do not need separating for shading.
- Shading from surrounding objects and buildings is an important consideration however it is rarely a problem in multi-residential buildings taller than their surroundings. PV can be very worthwhile even if partially shaded and can may still deliver significant carbon savings compared to other measures.
- For designing roofs in this situation, the following considerations should be made. Note that the below loss figure for varying orientation and pitch are applicable to Perth (latitude of 32 degrees):
- The orientation of the roof can significantly aid the amount of PV or Solar Hot Water that can be installed in the diagram above
– North facing panels at 32 degree pitch gives optimum energy gain over the whole year (100%)
– Dropping pitch to 5 degrees only results in a loss of approximately 9% (91% of optimal generation)
- If panels are to be pitched at lower than 10 degrees, consideration should be given to at least annual cleaning until it is proven that soiling is not effecting generation.
- If possible, avoid hips in roofs as these significantly reduce the amount of PV that can be installed. It is far better to pitch the roof in two directions only. Even pitching north and south in two directions is likely to result in a better overall result than in four directions. The south facing panels may generate less power per panel than the east or west, but more panels will be able to be installed because hips won’t have to be avoided and this will more than make up for the slight loss of efficiency in south facing panels.
- Very wide gutters can significantly affect the available roof space for solar collectors. Consider overhanging the roof structure over a required large gutter.
- Protruding services that break up the roof space should be designed if possible on the south side of the building. This reduces the losses due to shade for solar collectors across the whole roof.
- Roofs with multiple heights are complex due to overshadowing. If possible avoid this.
For solar hot water systems the same rules apply however slighting more consideration may be required to match demand with pitch, so a higher pitch to meet the higher winter water heating demand. This is not such an issue with PV as it can be fed into the grid when generation is higher than demand.
Some of the recommendations listed below represent paradigm shifts not only in actual construction but also in the marketing and sales strategies that may be required to ensure a developments viability. There may be times when it makes more sense to invest the money that would go into some of these expensive onsite solutions to other local projects that can deliver more value and higher CO2e savings. Examples of this may include Investments in street light upgrades, existing housing retrofits, solar panels on local schools and buildings, behaviour programs, community farms, bicycle infrastructure etc.
The more people a building can house the less impact per person that building will have. Furthermore for every person that is housed in a sustainable building that takes one more person out of the average, unsustainable building – moving society towards a low carbon economy faster.
Typical multi-residential buildings have approximately 50% of the total floor area dedicated to actual living space, the rest tends to get tied up in common areas, car parks, plant rooms etc. By minimising the common areas you reduce impacts on two fronts: living area available for the same volume of materials, and reducing the operational energy required to light and ventilate the common spaces (this can typically take up to 15% of the total CO2e emissions).
|ratio net dwellable area/gross Floor Area||Life Cycle Reduction in Emissions|
There are numerous ways that common areas can be reduced:
Space efficiencies can also be gained by increasing the number of stairwells whilst reducing the common walkway areas.
Although stairs are likely to be the more expensive option, this could be recouped by adding the spare hallway space into each apartment, in the example above this provides an extra 8.75m2 per apartment.
Typology (Beds and bathrooms)
Environmental impacts can be reduced through increasing the occupancy of the apartments themselves. Whilst 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartments are fashionable, with good design that (rarely used) spare bathroom could be a third bedroom instead. This provides an increase in the overall sustainable living space of the building without impacting on the floor area being constructed
In many ways embodied carbon is equally (and perhaps more) important a consideration than operational energy. eTool LCAs will typically assume current grid intensities throughout the 100+ year predicted design life of a building. This means operational energy makes up around 80% of the total impacts. In reality over the next 100 years the grid will decarbonise and operational energy will contribute much less over time. The embodied carbon in materials on the other hand is locked in from the year the material is manufactured and transported to the site. There are many low impact alternatives to common materials in construction. Timber and CLT can be used in place of concrete and steel. Where concrete is necessary fly-ash or blast furnaces slag blends should be incorporated, these are waste products that can directly replace a proportion of the concrete thereby reducing its impacts.
Timber veneers and plywood should be avoided due to the high impact of the glues and resins used in these products. Plasterboard also has very high impacts. Alternatives such as plain hardwood, bamboo or MDF represent significant savings. IF plasterboard is to be used 6mm sheets should be preferred to 12 mm sheets with acoustic requirements met through insulation which is typically low in CO2e emissions.
Carpets (especially wool) should be avoided with cork or polished concrete finish preferable. If absolutely necessary carpets should be dark coloured (to avoid replacement through soiling) and plant based materials such as jute and sisal should be specified that have natural/non-synthetic rubber backing.
There tends to be little difference in terms of environmental benefit between CFL lights and L.E.D lighting Increasing natural light levels using solar-tubes, skylights or similar means less use of artificial lighting energy. Specifying lighter matte colours to surfaces such as the balcony, ceiling and walls will bounce light deeper into the dwelling thus increasing natural lighting. Light shelves in windows is another passive way to divert and bounce light deeper into the dwelling. Similar systems using adjustable louvres can also be used. Providing translucent shading material in addition to heavier curtains allow the option of diffused daylight to penetrate whilst maintaining privacy. The top of the windows is where light penetrates deepest into the dwelling, so it is important to ensure that this part of the window is not obstructed by drapery or blinds. Translucent partitions between rooms also allow light to be drawn into deeper rooms. Clerestory windows also provide a method of introducing more natural light into central rooms. Ideally these should be utilised with higher ceilings and high reflectance surfaces in order to encourage light to penetrate. In order to prove the value of these initiatives a daylighting simulation should be undertaken to ensure expense is not incurred for no benefit. This will likely make this recommendation hard to justify economically (there will be many far easier wins elsewhere in the building.
Gas cookers over electric
In regions with fossil fuel dominated electricity grids such as WA, gas represents a large advantage over electricity for providing energy to cook with. This is due to the heat and electricity losses associated with distributed power. Burning the fuel (gas) at the source eliminates these losses and is a more efficient way of using the fuel. The majority of gas cookers sold today include safety features that automatically turn off the gas when no flame is present. Rinnai has also developed the ‘inner flame’ technology that produces a flame that is directed inwards which is about 27% more efficient than standard gas stoves. The drawback to moving to gas cooking is that a gas pipeline may need to be installed. If the implementation of this strategy is outside of the project budget the developer may offer the strategy as an upgrade package for purchasers. This eliminates the need for upfront capital while promoting best practices and educating the public.
Or Induction cooktops
An all induction cook-top is an alternative that could deliver carbon savings over a standard electric cook-top. Induction cook-tops work by transferring electrical energy through induction from a coil directly to the magnetic pan. Only the area in contact with the coil heats up and therefore the cooker can be up to 12% more efficient than a standard electric conduction cooker. The controls on an induction cooker are also far more precise giving a greater range of cooking techniques.
Car Park Ventilation
By applying a detailed engineering design to the car park ventilation systems, it is expected that the fan run times could be considerably cut down especially when natural ventilation is utilised. Computational fluid dynamics would be utilised in this technique to determine how to best move air through the car park to maintain acceptable CO2 levels with minimum energy demand. Gains may also be achieved in reduced ducting. At least a 20% saving in ventilation may be achieved.
Biodigesters turn food and or human waste into gas that can be used in cooking. Although not well established in western countries this technology has been used for hundreds of years in China and India. Communal or individual systems exist that may be incorporated into an innovative building design.
The appliances that go into the building can make a significant proportion of the recurring impacts. Modern appliances tend to have fairly small warranty periods in relation to the lifespan of a building. TVs in particular can often not last more than 10 years. Ensuring that appliances are purchased second hand and those that are purchased new have a long warranty and are kept for as long as possible can provide significant carbon savings. In this recommendation we have assumed each appliances lasts twice as long as the standard warranty. Where appliances are installed they should also be of the higher MEPS rating bands for energy efficiency.
Modern 6 star dwellings in Western Australia need very little in the form of heating/cooling. The developer with sustainability in mind will provide only ceiling fans for cooling and renewable biomass pellet heaters for heating. Bio Where air conditioners are provided they should be single split units which can obtain higher efficiencies generally than multi splits. A COP/EER of 5 is exemplary.
Tri-generation, deep geothermal and shallow ground source heat pumps can also be appropriate in very large developments with high demands such as precincts with swimming pools. However they entail very high outgoing capital costs and the environmental benefit should be considered carefully against other technologies.
Most importantly swimming pools should be appropriate for the size of the development. Proportionally 50m2 pool shared amongst 100 dwellings will have 100x fewer impacts per dwelling than the same size pool provided for a single dwelling. Where pools are installed they should ideally be naturally heated through ambient air and install pool covers that contain the heat when the pool is not in use. Typically including a pool cover which can operate automatically or manually for 8hrs per day during the pools closed hours has a 28% saving in the pools heating energy demand. Pool pumps efficiency should also be considered carefully, high-efficiency pool pumps of up to 9 stars MEPs rating are currently available on the market.
Alongside solar thermal technology and low flow shower heads, an opportunity exists to warm the inlet temperature of the water by using a heat exchanger. Water exiting apartments in the sewerage drains will have a higher temperature than the normal inlet temperature of water coming into the building from the mains, particularly in winter. By passing the inlet water over the warmer outgoing water, the temperature can be increased. A 5% reduction in energy demand of the hot water system can be achieved.
For communal systems there will be significant heat losses in the pipe carrying the hot water around the building as well as from the individual water storage tanks. Based on the conservative assumptions of a 25mm pipe with 25mm of insulation (125mm total diameter) the heat losses are estimated to increase the hot water demand by 10%. Correctly installed 50mm pipework insulation could therefore reduce the losses through hot water pipe by approximately 5%.
The door is always open at eTool for questions surrounding design decisions. If a project is in concept phase we are happy to sit down for an hour and discuss potential strategies and targets. Full targeting sessions are also available at low cost to determine more accurately the costs involved in achieving design aspirations. Following this our full LCA will provide the most detailed environmental assessment available.
eTool recently changed from offering numerous fairly localised benchmark options to a single international average benchmark for each building type. The decision making process was interesting so I thought I’d quickly document it.
The purpose of the eToolLCD benchmark is:
- To establish a common measuring stick against which all projects are assessed so that any project can be comparable to another (for the same building type);
- To create a starting point, or “average, business as usual case” from which to measure improvements.
From the outset we’ve always understood that a benchmark needs to be function specific. That is, there needs to be a residential benchmark for measuring residential buildings against etc. The first point essentially addresses this.
The second point introduces some complexity. What is, or should be, “average, business as usual”? More specifically, are people interested in understanding how their building performs when compared compared locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally?
When we started trying to answer this question, some scenarios were very helpful. If a designer wants to compare locally, the benchmark needs to reflect the things that are most important to the overall LCA results. The two most critical things are probably electricity grid and climate zone. Localising just these two inputs gets pretty tricky and the number of possible benchmark permutations starts to add up pretty quickly. In Australia there are four main independent electricity grids (NEM, SWIS, NWIS and Darwin). In the Building Code of Australia there’s 10 climate zones. Accounting for which climate zones occur within each grid, there’s about 20 different benchmarks required. To add to the complexity though, the NEM is split into different states (New South Wales, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia). Generally, because the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting guidance splits the NEM into different states, the NEM is usually considered as six different grids. So there’s upwards of 50 different benchmarks we’d need to create and maintain for Australia alone just to localise electricity grids and climate zone.
One disadvantage of this method is it’s still not all-accommodating. It doesn’t account for remote grids of which there are many in Australia. An example is Kunnanurra which is 100% hydro power. So even in this scenario where we had 50 or so benchmarks for Australia, there’s still big potential for a designer patting themselves on the back for a great comparison to the benchmark when really it’s just a local condition, and vice versa. The same can be said about an off grid scenario (effectively just a micro grid of it’s own).
The other disadvantage is maintenance of all these benchmarks. Expanding the above scenario internationally there could easily be 1000’s of possible benchmarks. There’s so many that it would be hard for eTool to initially create them, and even harder to subsequently maintain them. Clearly the localised benchmark option had some big challenges.
At the other end of the benchmarking philosophy we considered just having generic benchmarks, or even one global benchmark. This is perhaps a more user-centric, or building occupant sensitive system. That is, the building occupants are probably more interested in this measure as it’s more about how they live compared to the global community. So a building may be “average” compared to the local context, but actually be very low impact compared to the broader average (due to favourable local conditions). Conceivably, the local conditions contributing to the ease with which a building can perform may be part of people’s motivation for living in a particular area.
The disadvantage of the generic benchmarking approach is that it isn’t as useful for a designer to compare their building’s performance against this as the local conditions (which may create a significant advantage of disadvantage) aren’t considered. This was a big consideration for us, eToolLCD is a design tool, it has to be relevant to designers. Interestingly though, the way eToolLCD is generally used is the base design is modelled, and then improvements are identified against this base design. The benchmark is usually only used towards the end of the process as a communication and marketing tool.
Also, there’s no reason why the designer can’t model their own local benchmark, for example, a code compliant version of their own design.
This topic spurred some serious debate at eTool. In the end, the deciding factors were:
- A local approach couldn’t really be adopted without localising at least the grid and climate zone for each benchmark option. That is, it would have been too difficult to go half way with localisation (for example, only localising climate zone and not grid), as this really just revoked the whole advantage of localising the benchmarks.
- Taking the very localised approach was going to put a huge benchmark creation and maintenance burden on eTool which wasn’t necessarily productive
- The choice of a generic benchmark didn’t detract from the function of eToolLCD as a design tool.
- Greenhouse Gas pollution is a global problem not a local problem, we feel people probably need to measure and improve their performance against a global benchmark rather than a local one.
So the single global benchmark was the direction we choose. Once this decision was made, we needed to determine how to statistically represent global averages. We decided to choose an aspirational mix of countries to make up the global benchmark, that is, select the standard of living that we felt most people in the world aspire to and determine the average environmental impacts of buildings in these demographic locations. This does mean the global benchmarks are generally higher than the actual global average building stock for a given function. That doesn’t stop us from estimating what the sustainable level of GHG savings is against this aspirational benchmark (90%+). It also enables us to strive for this level of savings without adversely effecting our standard of living aspirations (globally). The global benchmark created using this approach is the residential benchmark. More information about how this was conducted can be found here.
For those people or organisations that would like a customised benchmark, eTool can provide this service. Please get in touch.
Well what a show!
It was standing room only at Spacecubed for our “Selling Sustainability” show for a subject that definitely sparked the interest of a lot of people from a lot of different backgrounds and organisations. The three guest speakers didn’t disappoint with rapid five-minute spiels with equal measure of entertainment, insight and inspiration. The crowd joined in nicely with plenty of excited and animated discussion that followed.
Adam from Tinderbox kicked it off by highlighting the importance of telling a story in your marketing and branding. The story needs to be tailored to the archetypes of your audienceand again really understands what makes them tick. He made a fantastic point that people don’t buy Apple products because they are cheap, they buy them because they are sold on the story behind the brand.
Once you’ve got someone looking at your product, it’s time to listen to their needs, concerns, desires, and “hot buttons”. Diagnose them like a doctor and then provide the right solution – your product. One of many awesome analogies that Sven from Psaros unleashed during the night. Just like in marketing to sell well, you need to get inside your audience rather than trying to convince them of your ideas.
I was definitely corrected by Sven when asking about born sales people – “You’re not born a sales person you learn it”. Sven’s advice is “go and get some training, even 20 years later, you can still learn and improve your sales technique”.
One recurring theme was that empathy held the key. As Chris, from the Forever Project, pointed out your neighbour might drive a V8 ute and have two jet ski’s in his double brick garage but he is probably a really nice guy too. With a few conversations you may end up sneaking a few native plants into his sprawling green grass and start something big…. As Chris has tested recently serving up organic food is a good way to get people interested but when the entrée is the dirt that it was grown in, suddenly you give people a powerful connection to what is important in life and what is important on this planet. Enabling people see why we do what we do is far more convincing than just telling them what we do.
A pitch from Andrew from Life Cycle Logic nailed it when he summed up “we are not selling sustainability we are selling a vision of an awesome future”.
Another really interesting topic was the use of fear. It seemed to be agreed that fear could be used effectively, but you needed to be really careful that it wasn’t mindless baseless fear that the tabloids dish up. It needs to be something grounded in reality that can assist in convincing people to make a change for the better.
I didn’t count the words, but I know passion, vision, empathy, emotion, and dreams scored an order of magnitude higher than logic. Hard for me to cop as an engineer but pretty obvious that people buy with the heart and not the head. Considering that sustainability isn’t about logical short term gains but more about that awesome vision for the future, this makes total sense.
The feedback has been fantastic and judging by the crowds engagement, note taking and solid conversation afterwards it would appear that we all got a lot out of it.
Thanks to the venue sponsor Psaros, the three fantastic speakers, Portia from eTool for managing and most of all the attendees for making it an awesome night.
We are keen to keep the conversation going so please register your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange another session.
In light of eTool’s recent exploration into global markets, we thought it prudent to create a “global” benchmark for housing developments. Before getting into the nitty gritty, it’s important to understand the purpose of the eTool benchmark, which is:
- To establish a common measuring stick against which all projects are assessed so that any project can be comparable to another (for the same building type);
- To create a starting point, or “average, business as usual case” from which to measure improvements.
Benchmark Form and Structure
The benchmark has been created to represent an average dwelling built in a developed country, the statistics for a range of developed countries have been population weighted and combined into a single theoretical average dwelling.
The statistics used in the benchmark are based on data obtained for each country. The construction type and dwelling size statistics take new build data wherever available, as this data is generally reliable and represents a picture of the way buildings are currently being built across the developed world. For residential buildings there is a mix of houses and apartments. This is the latest breakdown of the new dwellings density mix across the countries considered in 2010:
For the single dwelling element (59% of our average dwelling) a building structure has been modelled taking a cross section of commonly used construction techniques. In this instance, the data was obtained for U.S.A. The U.S.A makes up the largest proportion of new housing in the developed world and is considered to represent a fair “average house.” Construction techniques are unlikely to differ significantly enough to impact on the overall modelling, whilst brick houses may be more common in the U.K. and Germany, timber framing is far more prevalent in Japan and Sweden.
A similar approach was taken with windows, internal walls, floors and roofs. The vast majority of those installed in new builds across America and Europe are double glazed and allowances have also been made for the smaller proportions of other window framing options currently in common use.
For the multi-family dwellings, a standard concrete frame structure has been taken with one level of car parking and typical auxiliary and common layouts, such that the apartment living area represents approximately 50% of the total floor area of the building. The total impacts of this building have been weighted on a per m2 basis and 56 m2 has been added to the model to represent the apartment element.
Existing data has been used for operational energy, and arguably new build data would be preferable, but total existing data is generally a lot more robust (and readily available). Whilst new build energy figures were available for some countries, the figures tend to be from modelling completed for regulatory purposes and are therefore theoretical. In many countries there is a perceived “performance gap” between modelling results and actual consumption mainly due to differences in occupant behaviour, but also because of limitations in software and methodologies used for the modelling. The hope is that there will be continued industry effort towards monitoring of new build housing performances. Until further data in this area is available, we have a robust snapshot of how average buildings are currently performing by taking existing housing data.
The data for total residential fuel consumption was divided by the total number of dwellings in each country analysed. This was then weighted according to population to give a final figure for the average energy consumption of a developed country dwelling.
End-use percentage estimates were then used to determine where this energy is being used in the dwellings. Again, U.S. data[ix] has been used to represent the average.
Other impacts such as appliances and cabinetry and finishes have also been included by the estimated proportion of dwellings estimated to include these.
The global average water consumption is considered fairly consistent across most developed countries with America and Australia having higher water consumption due to larger garden sizes. A conservative nominal 169l/person/day has been assumed for water supply and treatment.
[i] Populations by country 2010 http://countrymeters.info/en/United_States_of_America_(USA)
[ii] Characteristics of New Housing U.S.A http://www.census.gov/construction/chars/highlights.html
[iii] Statistics Bureau Japan http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/1431-09.htm
[iv] EU Odysee Data 2008 downloaded on 11.7.2014
[v] Australian Bureau of Statistics Average floor area of new residential dwellings 2012 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/featurearticlesbytitle/E9AC8D4A1A3D8D20CA257C61000CE8D7?OpenDocument
[vi] U.S. Energy Information Administration – Annual Energy Outlook 2014 – Energy Consumption by Sector and Source http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/tablebrowser/#release=AEO2014&subject=0-AEO2014&table=2-AEO2014®ion=1-0&cases=full2013full-d102312a,ref2014-d102413a
[viii] Statistics Bureau Japan Chapter 10 Energy and Water http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/1431-10.htm
[ix] U.S. Energy Information Administration Residential Sector Key Indicators and Consumption http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/tablebrowser/#release=AEO2014&subject=0-AEO2014&table=4-AEO2014®ion=0-0&cases=full2013full-d102312a,ref2014-d102413a
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
Going beyond carbon zero.
Archiblox’s latest project is a carbon positive modular home that boasts a difficult to attain eTool Platinum rating. Achieving a platinum rating means the design achieved a 90 per cent overall improvement in CO2e emissions compared to the Australian benchmark along with a minimum of 60 per cent improvement in each category (embodied carbon and operational carbon).
What does it mean to be carbon positive?
A net carbon positive outcome means the building offsets more carbon than it uses in construction and operation throughout the life of the building.
Check out the following press about ArchiBlox’s carbon positive home and if you are in Melbourne, you can check the house out at the Sustainable Festival running until 1 March.
“Australia’s first carbon positive pre-fab home” - SBS News
“Can you compete with a carbon positive prefab home?” – Architecture & Design
“World’s first carbon positive prefab house” - Green Magazine
“World’s first carbon positive prefab house?” - ArchitectureAu
“The World’s First Carbon-Positive prefab house” – Dwell Magazine
What are all these new impact categories eTool can now measure? Below are some definitions:
Climate Change impacts result in a warming effect of the earth’s surface due to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, measured in mass of carbon dioxide equivalents.
Stratospheric Ozone Depletion is caused by the release of gaseous chemicals that react with and destroy stratospheric ozone. Although the Montreal treaty has significantly reduced the use of the most damaging substances and there is evidence that the abundance of ozone depleting gases is reducing in the atmosphere, some releases of ozone depleting chemicals still occur.
Acidification Potential provides a measure of the decrease in the pH-value of rainwater and fog, which has the effect of ecosystem damage due to, for example, nutrients being washed out of soils and increased solubility of metals into soils. Acidification potential is generally a regional impact and is measured in mass of sulphur dioxide equivalents. The mechanism dominating the acidification impacts is the combustion of fossil fuels, release of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide which dissolves with condensed water in the atmosphere and falls as rain. The term acid rain describes severe incidents of this mechanism.
In general terms, Eutrophication Potential provides a measure of nutrient enrichment in aquatic or terrestrial environments, which leads to ecosystem damage to those locations from over enrichment and is measured in mass of phosphate equivalents.
Tropospheric Ozone Formation Potential is the creation of lower atmospheric ozone (commonly known as smog) due to the mechanism of VOCs reacting with sunlight. In particular, the release of carbon monoxide from steel production is predominant; however other releases such as nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and methane also contribute significantly to POCP.
Mineral & Fossil Fuel Depletion (Abiotic Depletion) provides an indication of the potential depletion (or scarcity) of non-energetic natural resources (or elements) in the earth’s crust, such as iron ores, aluminium or precious metals, and it accounts for the ultimate geological reserves (not the economically feasible reserves) and the anticipated depletion rates. It is measured in mass of antimony equivalents.
Human Toxicity, in general terms, refers to the impact on humans, as a result of emissions of toxic substances to air, water and soil, and is expressed in terms of damage to human health by the index mDALY (1/1000th of a disability adjusted life year)
Land Use is measured in years of use of arable land (m2.year). This describes the area and time land is occupied by production systems both natural and industrial for the production of the building materials but not the occupation of the building itself. While not strictly an impact category it is linked to general land use pressure and is therefore a proxy for biodiversity and other land competition impacts.
Resource Depletion (Water) provides an indication of the total net input of water used throughout the life cycle of the building.
Ionising Radiation covers the impacts arising from the release of radioactive substances as well as direct exposure to radiation. The impact is expressed in terms of damage to human health by the index uDALY (1/1,000,000th) of a disability adjusted life year.
Ecotoxicity refers to effects of chemical outputs on nonhuman living organisms. Expressed in comparative toxic units (CTUe) it provides an estimate of the potentially affected fraction of species integrated over time and volume per unit mass of a chemical emitted.
Particulate Matter is defined as a mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances resulting from human activities and suspended in the atmosphere. Several studies show that PM causes serious adverse health effects, including reduced life expectancy, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, low birth weight, and premature birth. Precursors involved in PM formation include sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3), and volatile and semivolatile organic compounds. Measured as either PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers) or PM10 (particulate matter between 2.5 to 10 micrometers). Finer particles can travel deeper into the lungs and are usually made up of materials that are more toxic therefore PM2.5 can have worse health effects than the coarser PM10.
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