Sustainable Design Principles 101 – Multi-Residential Australia

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.

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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.

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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.

Sustainability Measure

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%
Total approximate 37%-45%

 

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:

Capture3Once 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.

 

Advanced Design

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.

Functionality

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
45%
50% -3.1%
55% -5.6%
60% -7.7%
70% -11.0%
80% -13.5%

 

There are numerous ways that common areas can be reduced:

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Space efficiencies can also be gained by increasing the number of stairwells whilst reducing the common walkway areas.

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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

 Materials

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.

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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.

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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.

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Lighting

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

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.

 Appliances

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.

Thermal Performance

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.

Swimming Pools

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.

 Hot Water

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%.

 

eTool

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.

 

Benchmarking Philosophy

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.

Cropped_SellingSustainability

[Wrap-up] Selling Sustainability: The Missing Link

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 portia@etoolglobal.com and we’ll arrange another session.

 

Brown Paper Background

eTool International Residential Benchmark (Methodology Summary)

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

Benchmark Operational

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.

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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.

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Other impacts such as appliances and cabinetry and finishes have also been included by the estimated proportion of dwellings estimated to include these.

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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&region=1-0&cases=full2013full-d102312a,ref2014-d102413a

[vii] Odysee energy database for EU and Norway (2008) downloaded from http://www.odyssee-mure.eu/ in July 2014

[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&region=0-0&cases=full2013full-d102312a,ref2014-d102413a

 

 

Global_Image

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

CPHlowres (1)

ArchiBlox Creates Australia’s First Carbon Positive Pre-Fab Home

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

“Prefabricated house in Melbourne’s City Square can produce more energy than it uses” – Dezeen Magazine

Sun Room in the Modular Design. Click to view the full case study >

Sun Room in the Modular Design. Click to view the full case study >

 

Impact Category Definitions

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.

GreenWall

Research Shows Sustainable Apartments are a Priority for Perth Community

Research conducted by Psaros in partnership with the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA) and the Property Council has indicated that the Perth community rates sustainability, public transport and walkability as some of the top priorities concerning the future of the Perth inner suburbs.

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said

“This ground-breaking research dispels some deeply-held myths that have been holding Perth back from becoming more sustainable, more affordable and more liveable.”

“Our capital city is shaking off its ‘dullsville’ image, but there is a lot more that needs to be done. In particular, the research shows that high quality eco-friendly developments around transport links are strongly supported by the majority of Perth residents.”

“While there can at times be vocal opposition to individual developments, there is much broader and stronger support for increased density than planners and Local Councils might think. This is great news for our environment. For every sustainable apartment that is built, less energy is used, less waste is created, less natural bushland is destroyed and more trips are taken by public transport.”

Below is a quick summary by Psaros of some of the findings of the report. You can read the full report here.

 


 

Research

Undertaken by leading social research provider Ipsos between 4 – 17 June 2014. Respondents who live within 10km range of the Perth CBD were recruited in an online survey and focus group analysis. An even distribution of voters between 18 and 65+ with majority being single or two parent families with kids and older couples without kids. Final sample size n+524.

Main findings

There is very strong support for more medium & higher density apartment-style developments around transport hubs (71% support) and in inner areas (68% support).

 

The top three priorities for Perth’s future are;

•    an increase in public transport (train, light rail, buses) (95% support)
•    more eco-friendly buildings that generate their own power, collect rainwater and use less energy (89% support)
•    well-designed, safer bike paths to get to work and other places (86% support)

The most appropriate housing types for Perth city are:

•    a mix of mid-sized apartments, townhouses & retail / cafés (like Leederville and Northbridge) (79% support)

•    a mix of high-rise, town houses and parks (Like South Perth) (71% support)

Over half of residents (55%) would support increased building height limits to allow for higher density around transport links and 50% would support relaxing building height limits if developments are eco-friendly; .

The majority of respondents (73%) do not believe that the benefits of a separate house and garden outweigh the benefits of inner city living.

The majority of respondents (69%) do not consider low density living in detached single housing to be a more affordable option .

Perceived benefits of apartment living include:

•    easier to maintain (71% agree, 8% disagree)
•    reduce the need for land clearing (70% agree, 8% disagree)
•    lower environmental impact than detached housing (54% agree, 17% disagree)
•    save on energy costs (44% agree, 15% disagree)
•    save on car running costs (42% agree, 23% disagree)

3 in 5 inner city residents are likely to move house in the next 5 years; 73% would consider living in medium density housing and 50% in higher density housing.

eToolTeam_1_Cropped_Website

2014 Was Our Most Excellent Year Yet – Thank You!

We’ve come a long way over the last four years, and the last twelve months have been particularly exciting. We couldn’t have done it without our wonderful clients, partners, affiliates, supporters, friends and family - thank you!  We’d like to share with you some of our achievements over the last year and the exciting things we have planned for 2015.

Firstly and most importantly, we are ecstatic to announce that since the beginning of eTool, we have helped designers avoid over:

450,000 tonnes of CO2e!

That’s equivalent to planting 2,713,863 trees or taking 125,642 cars off the road! Our number one metric at eTool is reducing CO2 emissions, so we’re thrilled to see the number of CO2e saved increasing each and every month. 

As we continue to make eToolLCD the best of the best, we celebrate:

A few project & client achievements

    12     Green Star jobs completed and submitted with one achieving a 6-star rating and multiple achieving 5-star

     42     new clients such as Brookfield Multiplex, Mirvac, Lendlease & Broad, to name a few.

     9      HIA GreenSmart 2014 awards won by eTool clients

We’d like to especially congratulate long-standing eTool client Psaros, for their outstanding leadership in sustainability and their achievement of winning a 2014 Banksia Sustainability Award!

A few other (slightly quirky) eTool achievements by the numbers

      0     kilometers driven by cars to work by eTool employees (we opt for bicycles instead)

       1      CO2e saving plan developed to pump poo from Perth to farms (CSI talk TBC…)
       1      fantastic ‘Life Cycle Design Explained‘ video
    102    trees planted at the Bruce family farm by the team
     120    pages printed (hopefully after convincing more clients, 2015 will be 0!)

    171     attendees to eTool “saving the world” events (i.e. CSI talks & Great Debate)

     185    hours spent at the lunch table philosophising about how to save the world


2015: It’ll Be a Big One.

We’ve got some exciting things planned for the new year and we’re jumping out of our seats in anticipation. Here are just a few of our ambitions for the new year:

eToolLCD compliance with UK’s BREEAM IMPACT & DGNB (German Green Building Council) 
Watch this spacethis is huge. Delivering additional functionality that allows compliance with international green building rating systems is part of our continuing strategy of making eToolLCD the best and most globally accessible whole-building LCA software around.

Reaching the far corners of the world with LEED 
US-based LEED is used not only by the United States, but also in many other countries such as Brazil, Canada and India, just to name a few. Working on more LEED projects and showing consultants the power of eToolLCD means more carbon saved in even more parts of the world, something we always strive for.A zero-waste office
We want to make sure we walk the talk in the office in all areas, so starting 2015, the eTool office will become zero-waste. All employees will be responsible for disposing of their own waste with the intention of encouraging more mindful thought processes around product packaging and food waste. Wish us luck!


From all of us at eTool, we’d like to thank you for being a part of our journey. Stay tuned as more exciting things unfold in the coming months…Here’s to 2015!- Richard, Alex, Fei, Portia, Pat & Henrique
Media_Release

eToolLCD now EPD friendly

Product manufacturers can now upload their Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) into leading Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) software, eToolLCD

Globally leading Life Cycle Design (LCD) software eToolLCD, has raised the bar in functionality by enabling users to enter their own Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) in their database. This enables manufacturers with public EPDs to have their products listed in the software, allowing users and designers to incorporate them within their projects.

The incorporation of EPDs into the software aligns with global trends as building product manufacturers around the world embrace EPDs as a way to provide genuine and comparable evidence of their sustainability credentials. Manufacturers of any size can complete an EPD of their products, leveling the playing field for manufacturers by allowing comparisons of the environmental performance of products using a globally recognised standard.

“What is really exciting about this recent development in the software is that not only will it improve experience for the design team and improve building performance, but it also provides positive feedback to the manufacturers. Now material manufacturers can obtain an EPD, put themselves on the global stage in front of thousands of eToolLCD users, and most importantly, push other manufactures to lift their game,” said Alex Bruce, eTool Business Development Manager.

Most whole-building life cycle assessments rely predominantly on generic life cycle inventories of common construction materials. The inclusion of EPDs within eToolLCD allows design teams to ensure they are supporting manufacturers with quantifiably better products for their specific project criteria.

The framework chosen to allow EPDs to be uploaded into the database supports the use of the global standard EN15804 compliant EPDs, however other formats can be used if necessary.

“We have watched with excitement how the EPD standards and programs are aligning with construction products. Shifting the focus from material groups to particular manufacturers has the potential to really raise the bar and reward good manufacturers,” said Richard Haynes, eTool Group Leader of Operations & Development.

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Media contact:

Portia Odell
eTool Marketing Communications Manager
+61 08 9467 1664
portia@etoolglobal.com
www.etoolglobal.com

About eTool

eTool is a world leading life cycle assessment and design consultancy that optimises building design for lower environmental impact and high performance. Utilising our unique software eToolLCD®, we work with architects, engineers and developers to measure and improve the life cycle impacts of buildings, surpassing industry standards. eToolLCD® makes sustainable development easy to achieve and cost-effective for all size projects, from residential and commercial building to land development and infrastructure.

 

Learn more about how to upload EPDs into eToolLCD here or get in touch to discuss options.