Breeam 2018 LCA Ramp-up!

The following represents eTools response to the revision of the Mat1 credit offering in Breeam (2018).  The comments are based on the Technical Manual SD5078, Breeam UK New Construction 2018, Consultation Draft, as well as general ongoing conversations with the Bre.

Credit Summary

  • Up to 2 credits available for completing an LCA using IMPACT.  Credits awarded depend on performance against the Bre benchmarks.  Credit is awarded at Stage 4 once detailed design information is available
  • Up to 2.66 further credits available for Superstructure options appraisals during RIBA stage 2
  • Up to 1.33 further credits available for Superstructure options appraisals during RIBA stage 4
  • 1 credit available for substructure and landscaping options appraisal during RIBA Stage 2
  • 1 exemplary credit available for services options appraisal during RIBA stage 2
  • 1 exemplary credit for alignment with LCC
  • 1 exemplary credit “3rd party verification”

Total – 7 materials credits plus 3 exemplary

Evidence required – LCA modelling results, Optioneering report (automated from eTool), demonstration of how the LCA analysis has been integrated into the design and the design team responses at stages 2 and 4.

Alignment with eTool

General Approach

eTool are excited to see the progression of the LCA credits within Breeam. LCA is fast becoming a mainstream aspect of sustainability and is seen in the construction industry as the future of good environmental performance.  Embodied or capital carbon represents approximately 20% of total UK building emissions, LCA therefore will need to form a vital role in tackling climate change and meeting the Paris commitments. Within the industry landowners now recognise the importance of LCA and are requiring it to form part of the design process as do developers such as Land Securities and infrastructure projects such as HS2 many European countries (Holland and soon France are legislating LCA across all buildings).

The general approach of the new materials section and emphasis on using LCA to improve environmental performance from the design outset should be applauded.  eToolLCD was built with the primary intention of informing design outcomes and getting involved as early as possible, when we have the greatest number of opportunities available for improvement. By building an LCA models, analysing recommendations and presenting results we have influenced a reduction of over 500,000 tCO2e on our projects.  The high volume of LCAs that we produce has allowed us to form an extremely efficient workflow within the tool and we look forward to further helping design teams quantify and improve their building

The full 10 credits can be achieved using eTool by anyone with some basic construction knowledge. Our existing features align perfectly with the credit requirements.

Stage 2 analysis:  Often there is a shortage of information available at stage 2 to undertake a full LCA.  However, we have always believed that these are the key times to deliver LCA analysis when the big structural decisions are being made and opportunities for improvement can be analysed.  That is why we built our unique template system which can provide very detailed LCA analysis using minimal information.  Our templates for entire wall and floor make-ups contain well-researched assumptions to fill any gaps in quantity information.  These can then be updated as the design progresses.

Optioneering: Another key component of eToolLCD is our recommendations reporting.  There is little point in building an LCA model if you are not going to try and improve the design outcomes or present lessons to the team, this is where the fun really begins!  We have a public library of recommendations that is building and improving with every new job and new suggestion that is proposed.  The library has groups of different recommendations that can be applied in bulk – high cost, zero cost, shell only, energy etc).  The user can record any change that is made to their model and report how they affect the impacts both environmental (CO2, water, acidification, ecopoints etc) and monetary (£, Euros and $).  The team has a simple shopping list that can be prioritised based on what provides the greatest environmental improvement for the least cost.

Reporting: Nobody wants to spend their time copying and pasting graphs and tables into reports formatting, issuing, repeating.  This is time that could be much better spent digging deeper into our LCA work and finding recommendations! We now have several reports automated directly out of the software that provides information and results in an easy to follow format. These reports are automated from our LCA models as standard and will, of course, be fully compliant with Bre evidence requirements. We are continually working on improving the reporting for our users and will continue to improve on the presentation of the LCA work

LCC Alignment: Aligning the LCA and LCC is of vital importance for effective LCA work. Quantifying the costs of improvements will help teams prioritise how to get the best environmental gain for least capital spent. With our recent cost functionality, it is a simple step to extract LCC results from your LCA model and report for the Man2 credits. Aligning the LCA with the LCC means that a full LCA will need to be completed including all elements within the build – finishes, operational energy etc . These are beyond the scope for the Materials credits however they can be easily added to a model using our template system.  Including operational energy in particular, can raise some very important design decisions. Do the savings from thermal mass or triple glazed windows make up for their embodied impacts, would more carbon be saved on spending 1k on solar PV or 1k on a timber roof, this is when LCA becomes a very powerful tool?

3rd Party:  The 3rd party verification is a great inclusion. Recent publications from RICS (Whole life carbon measurement: implementation in the built environment) suggest that there can be a large variance in results of LCA studies.  A 3rd party verification will not only improve the quality of individual LCAs but also encourage greater learning with the LCA community feeding back to each other improvements to processes and design options. eToolLCD has over 2000 registered users and eTool have certified over 300 full building LCA project.  Our certification service is provided to projects completed by commercial users as part of our standard software offering. During the certification process, a senior eTool LCA practitioner is made available to the project for the purposes of:

  • Assisting the LCA team with completing the study in compliance with relevant standards (Breeam LEED etc)
  • Reducing the risk to and elevating the professionalism of the users LCA service by peer reviewing their LCA study to ISO 14044 standards.
  • Assisting the LCA team with challenging concepts or modelling requirements.
  • Improving the LCA teams efficiency in completing LCAs using eToolLCD
  • Providing the LCA team with potential strategies that may be worth considering to reduce the impact of the design.

The certification system ensures a consistent, high quality of LCA studies is produced from the eToolLCD software. We will add to the certification checks those listed by Breeam such as review of total quantity data.

eTool hold the view that, if anything, the new credit offering does not go far enough and there exists further potential to deliver performance-based design.  The optioneering is a vital component of LCA work, however, further credit should be weighted towards the benchmarking.  As it stands a theoretical 100% timber building (which has zero CO2e impacts) would achieve the full 10 credits and an average building would achieve somewhere between 8 and 9 (depending on the benchmarking outcome).  There is opportunity to give more weight to the benchmarking performance which should be taken now, the climate catastrophe clock is ticking!

The new revision is by all means a positive step in the right direction.  Further detailed comments on the credit methodology (we encourage everyone to provide their own comments to the Bre) are shown below.

Further Improvements

3rd Party

 “A suitably qualified 3rd party (see Definitions on page 294) shall either carry out the building LCAs or produce a report verifying the building LCAs accurately represent the designs”

One area that requires careful consideration by the Bre is who qualifies as a 3rd party.  The definitions communicated by the Bre state that anyone who has not consulted on the design is a 3rd party.  Given the LCA work will include optioneering and will often be completed by the Breeam/sustainability consultant, the LCA practitioner would always be considered a design team member.  The exception might be if the practitioner is given only designs to assess by the active team members (architects engineers etc).  They will not be able to propose options but the design team may put forward suggestions for them to then test.  This is somewhat grey and could get challenging for the Bre to assess.  At eTool we have a large public library of recommendations for our users to review and test on their models. Would the practitioner who presents the model and recommendation options still be a 3rd party?  A far more appropriate and simplified approach would be to require a 3rd party verification whoever completes the LCA work, “3rd party” or not.

 

LCA Scope

The scope of the LCA is not entirely clear from the credit, should trade staff, their transport and equipment impacts be included?  eTool and our users always complete as full an LCA as possible to ensure there are no missed opportunities for improving the design.  We include trade staff and all equipment that they use to build and maintain the development over its life cycle (cranes, pile drivers, concrete pumps, vacuum cleaners etc). This can be of particular interest when, understanding different foundation systems and excavation requirements or when looking at modular buildings.

The scope of the LCA neglects finishes and fittings despite them making up a very significant portion of a buildings impacts. The current approach in the industry (and EN15978) is to include these and to assume the same products will be replaced throughout the buildings life cycle. We feel this is still the most appropriate approach and places emphasis on the elements that have the largest likely impacts under today’s conditions.  Taking LCA categories in their isolation can cause perverse design outcomes particularly in cases when the scope of the build also includes fit-out.  In whole building projects, the design team should be assessing each strategy on its environmental merits and prioritising.  Reducing the scope of the LCA only serves to reduce the scope for improvement strategies.  We recommend that when included within the scope of the build all optioneering should be included and given credit for, the LCA assessor will most likely do this anyway as a client requirement.

 

Functionality

eTool would also like to see some mention of “Functionality” in the principles.  Whilst there are challenges in benchmarking functionality good design is not being recognised in the principles and/or credit without some notion of function.  If an office can increase its floor plan by reducing service or car park spaces this should be encouraged (greater office area provided using the same resources).  Likewise, 60-year life expectancy is not accurate for the majority of high rise building which will be standing far longer and are therefore a more efficient use of resources and carbon than low-density buildings which will face more re-development pressure over their life cycle. Often much bigger environmental wins can be gained through improved functionality.  Consider a concrete low rise building in an urban centre, it may well be knocked down within 50 years.  A high rise on the same spot, on the other hand, may well still be standing in 100+ years this represents a 50% saving of impacts (in terms of kg CO2e/m2/year). eTool recommend that optioneering can include functional improvements and that an accurate life expectancy is considered when comparing options.

 

Negligible Items

Negligible items. Whilst nails tend to be pretty negligible, adhesive and certain brackets are not always, of course, this all depends on the scope of the LCA, nails could be the largest impacts of a small timber shed!  In a full LCA a great deal of adhesive can be used in carpets and finishes.  This is simple to quantify, xm2 times thickness (0.5mm of adhesive).  Likewise, brackets in curtain walling and other systems can be very significant.  It is rare that a design team member will know the area of glue on a particular component.  We would advise therefore that it is always included as a conservative assumption. If its looking like a significant item then more information should be sought and the model refined. The LCA assessor should always use their own experience to determine the negligible items and follow the EN15978 rule of 1% of total environmental relevance or the RICS guidelines of 1% of cost.

 

Super Credit

We think there is an excellent opportunity to go further by completing a full LCA/LCC including operational energy and water. This could in the future lead to the super credit whereby all chapters in Breeam that can be quantified through LCA – energy, water materials, pollution (perhaps even health) are assessed in a single model with each environmental strategy assessed based on its actual quantified merits.  This allows the design team the maximum flexibility in meeting their targets as well as delivering quantified results in terms of reductions of CO2e (or any other environmental indicator).

eTool believe that the current separation of energy, water and materials is no longer necessary with the advancements in standards, LCI data sources, LCA tools, and knowledge within the industry.  Siloed thinking of environmental performance in this way leads to adverse trade-offs for the planet.  The only way to prevent these adverse trade-offs is to use life cycle assessment within a life cycle design process.  The construction industry is recognising this and moving to LCA for environment decisions makings.  Examples below:

– In standards development: CEN was directed by the EU to produce standards for voluntary rating of sustainable buildings.  They developed “EN 15978: Sustainability of Construction Works, Assessment of Environmental Performance of Buildings, Calculation Method” which is entirely LCA based.

– In regulation: Laws such as the 2011 French Grenelle regulation require mandatory LCA-based environmental product labelling.

– In Green Building Rating Schemes: DGNB, the majority of the environmental points are achieved through an LCA (quantifying water, energy, materials holistically through their life cycle metrics.