LCA and UKGBC Net-Zero Framework

Given the recent movements in the climate justice campaign, the release of UKGBC Net-Zero Carbon Framework in April this year has been very timely. Although we have seen various “net zero” definitions in the UK in the past (such as the scrapped zero-carbon homes targets under building regs over 10 years ago) it feels this time the general idea has more industry backing with 100s of architects, structural engineers and councils formally declaring a climate emergency.

The UKGBC definition is an interim step on the pathway to assessing full life cycle impacts. It introduces embodied carbon in materials (A1-A3), their impacts for transport (A4) and constriction (A5) alongside operational energy (both regulated and unregulated emissions).

ukgbc net zero

Figure1: UKGBC Net Zero Carbon definition (April 2019)


Unfortunately, it does not go as far as full LCA yet with the idea that it simplifies the work and encourages uptake. However, module B1-B5 presents a large chunk of CO2e that will be missing from the calculations. Typically B1-B5 can be responsible 500-1000 kgCO2e/m2 over 60 years and ignoring these impacts will lead to good potential design opportunities being missed. Onsite renewables such as PV will be replaced over the life cycle and whilst the energy that they offset will be included in B6 the embodied impacts of their replacements are not. There are plans to increase the scope in future updates and it is encouraging to at least see some level of joined-up thinking between operational energy and construction embodied carbon. This will no doubt drive some improved design outcomes as design teams can assess the relative merits of strategies that impact on both energy and construction impacts such as thermal mass or triple glazing.

Modelling in eToolLCD
There are two choices of dataset groups in eTool currently. Either BRE IMPACT data or eToolLCD default data (regionalised data available for UK, EU, Aus, NZ and USA regions). Both can be used to model net-zero under the current definitions however if future expansions include modules C and D then eTool default data would be preferred.


ModuleUKGBC Net Zero ConstructionUKGBC Net Zero OperationalUKGBC Net Zero Whole of Life (Yet to be Finalised)BREEAM 2018 (IMPACT)eTooLLCD
ConstructionA1-3 Product Stage 118698-32  118698-32 118698-32 118698-32
A4 Transport of Equipment and Materials 118698-32  118698-32 118698-32 118698-32
A5 Construction 118698-32  118698-32 118698-32 118698-32
Use StageB1 Products in Use 118698-32 (1) 118698-32 118698-32
B2 Maintenance  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
B3 Repair  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
B4 Replacement  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
B5 Refurbishment  118698-32 (1) 118698-32 (1) 118698-32
B6 Integrated Energy Use 118698-32  118698-32 118698-32 (1) 118698-32
B6+ Non-Integrated Energy Use (Plug Loads) 118698-32
B7 Water Use & Treatment  118698-32 (1) 118698-32 (1) 118698-32
End of LifeC1 Deconstruction & Demolition  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
C2 Transport of Waste Offsite  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
C3 Waste Processing  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
C4 Disposal  118698-32 (1) 118698-32 118698-32
Benefits and Load Beyond the System BoundaryD1 Operational Energy Exports  118698-32 (1) 118698-32 (1) 118698-32
D2 Closed Loop Recycling  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
D3 Open Loop Recycling  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
D4 Materials Energy Recovery  118698-32 (1) 118698-32
D5 Direct Re-use  118698-32 (1) 118698-32

Figure 2: Scope of Carbon Assessments

Below are the impacts in kgCO2e/m2 for a typical medium density office building. (Note B6 energy impacts assume today’s grid (0.25kgCO2e/kWh) applied over the 60 year life cycle. Note the RICS Whole Life Carbon for the Built Environment Professional Statement is provided as a reporting reference, this level of reporting is simple to pull from eToolLCD using our All Impacts Report


Figure 3: Typical medium density low rise office building 


Impacts associated with construction represent a third of the total.  This is significantly higher now than in previous years when the UK grid was 0.6kgCO2e/kWh and usually made up 80-90% of life cycle impacts had that the grid has a lower.  However, there is still a large chunk impacts missing from the guidance in the form of replacement and maintenance (B2-B5) which can be 500-1000 kgCO2e/m2.

Once quantified the design team can start to consider strategies, some examples are shown below.  Without strategies, 1.755 tonnes/m2 of CO2e would need to be offset in a typical office. For net zero the cost of implementing these strategies will need to also be weighed up against the cost of purchasing offsets.


Offsets come with varying degrees of quality, cast and “additionality” arguments. The offset schemes referenced by UKGBC (Gold standard and Clean Development mechanism) carry a cost of between £0.6/tonne and £14/tonne. In an average office this could result in up to an extra £24/m2 or 1-2% of construction costs. However, the Greater London Authority recommends a price of £60/tonne. It will be interesting to see whether this gives the industry further incentive to implement low carbon strategies (in particular timber) early on in the design process. Furthermore, the onus will be on us LCA practitioners to improve the accuracy of our LCAs with the total kgCO2e figures resulting in a significant increase to net-zero development costs.


Are we running out of building materials?

Materials stock


The above infographic from the BBC implies that we will run out of copper in 32 years.  This is calculated by taking the current reserves (about 700Mt) and dividing by the current annual demand for primary copper production, the infographic is well researched.  But…

In 1996 global copper reserves were only 310Mt and since then we have consumed about 310Mt of primary copper.  Exactly the same methodology in determining how long the resource would last, so why haven’t we already run out already?  

The answer lies in the detail of the data.  Reserves are mineral deposits that are at an advanced stage of exploration and have been proven to be economically viable at current commodity prices. They are a very small proportion of actual known quantities.  Resources are estimates of known quantities based on some exploration data with some potential for economic extraction.  There is typically at least an order of magnitude more resources than reserves. In the case of copper there’s about 3,000 Mt of copper resources that are somewhat well understood (explored).  It’s further estimated that there is 300,000 Mt of copper in near-surface deposits (including the sea bed).  So we’re unlikely to “run out” of copper for 15,789 years at current levels of demand based on estimated quantities available on Earth.

What we pay for copper moving forward is another story.  As much of the copper could be harder to extract than current deposits prices should go up.  But technology also changes the cost of minerals extraction.  Exploration, mining and processing technology, as well as economies of scale all, play a part in the overall cost of delivering the product to market.  This presentation shows that costs have actually decreased by 70% between 1905 and 2007 due to technological breakthroughs.  

So the BBC Infographic is somewhat exaggerating the real extent of the problem.  That’s not to say some minerals are legitimately in short supply. When this happens prices go up and typically the economy reacts by a combination of:

  • Improving the efficiency with which they use resources.  For example, silicon wafers in solar photovoltaic modules halved in thickness between 2004 and 2014.
  • Shifting demand to other resources that can replace the short supply resource.  For example, solid tantalum capacitors in inverters have been largely replaced with polymer tantalum and ceramic capacitors.
  • Improving recycling rates and use of recycled content (see our post on circular economy).
  • Spending more on exploration and proving more reserves (as they’re now more economical).
  • Spending more on research to improve extraction techniques making previously uneconomic resources feasible.

If the world was truly facing a shortage of plastic, for example, the industry would be placing efforts into removing waste and designing all new products that contain plastic in a way that it can be easily separated and recycled. As it currently stands it is a very cheap material that has an abundance of supply meaning the motivations to reuse are lacking.

Although finite resource use is a potential problem, when the facts are explored it’s not as urgent as global warming.  From a sustainability perspective, resource availability is often more of a social/economic issue than an environmental one.  Our ecosystems, biodiversity and human health aren’t really affected if we use up all the copper and it ends up in landfill. What the planet really needs right now is for us to keep global temperatures as far below 1.5 degrees as possible!

Links between LCA and the Circular Economy

Circular Economy (CE) is a philosophy that has gained a good deal of momentum within sustainable construction recently.  We have seen the new draft London Plan requiring consideration of Circular Economy (as well as embodied carbon) on all major London developments.  eTool also recently contributed to the UKGBC guidance on Circular Economy (a copy can be viewed here) and there is a definite feeling of ground-shift within the industry which is exciting to see.

The key concept behind building circular is that waste is simply a design flaw and that if we can remove it entirely then we will see improvements to the environmental, cost and social performance of our projects.

A circular economy is a global economic model that decouples economic growth and development from the consumption of finite resources. It is restorative by design, and aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value, at all times (Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

Many aspects of circular principles currently have a qualitative focus.  A quantitative approach, however, can go hand-in-hand with this through LCA. By analysing the environmental and/or economic impacts of the potential circular strategies over the life cycle we can prioritise those that provide the greatest benefit.  There is a lot more that can be drawn from an LCA study than embodied carbon data.

LCA circle graphic

In eTool we measure full impacts over the building life cycle from cradle-cradle and have numerous other environmental indicators that help measure environmental performance beyond Embodied Carbon and life cycle GWP.  One group of indicators now measured in eTool LCAs has been developed by HS2 to help quantify circular principles, see materials efficiency metrics for further details.

Quantifying Benefits

There are numerous circular principles that may produce good environmental outcomes.

• Refurbishing/repurposing/recovering existing buildings or materials
• Specifying materials with high recycled content
• Designing for disassembly and end-of-life reuse
• Designing for longevity/adaptability/reusability where its appropriate.

However, without full life cycle quantification of the strategies under consideration, there is no way of knowing the relative benefits, which ones to prioritise and which ones produce perverse outcomes. For example, recycled aggregate trucked from 70km away actually has much higher impacts today than locally sourced virgin aggregate.

Recycled Aggregate

Global Warming Potential (kgCO2e) for product and transport stage (A1-A4)

Recycled metals, on the other hand, have relatively minor transport impacts (see figure below). eToolLCD contains a growing list of “Recommendation” strategies that users can apply to their LCA work.  We have a tagging system with a new “circular economy” tag for any that relate to refurbish/recycling/deconstruction/longevity.

Module D

Module D of EN15978 relates to “benefits and loads beyond the system boundary” and has particular relevance for circular strategies,

  • D1 – Operational Energy Exports
  • D2 – Closed Loop Recycling
  • D3 – Open Loop Recycling
  • D4 – Materials Energy recovery
  • D5 – Direct Re-use

Under Module D where materials will be recycled at the end of their life, a benefit credit is given in the LCA. For example, if a cladding system is designed for deconstruction the materials are more likely to be recycled at the end of life we will see an improved performance in the LCA from module D (product reuse).


1 Tonne of Virgin aluminium shipped 1500km

Allocating recycling loads and benefits can get a little tricky when trying to avoid any double counting of impacts, more information on Module D can be found at this blog post.

Longevity and functional units

Buildings that can last for very long periods are clearly a better use of resources than buildings that get knocked down after 20 years.  The life expectancy of many low-density inner-city commercial buildings is unlikely to reach far beyond 20 years due to redevelopment pressure. However certain high-density megastructures (such as the Shard) will likely still be standing for 100 years or more.  Its going to be a long time before someone thinks they can replace the Shard with a building that will create more value from the real estate. To capture the relative benefits and savings of a buildings life expectancy it is important to apply an appropriate functional unit to the LCA. It is common in the industry to measure impacts in absolute terms over a 60 year period – kg CO2e/m2.  Applying a realistic life expectancy based on building location and density relative to its surroundings and presenting impacts in temporal terms – kg CO2e/m2/year the LCA will present a truer picture of the results.  This is particularly important when considering Circular Economy principles.  Materials going into a building that lasts twice as long before being demolished and sent to landfill will have half the life cycle impacts.

Circular Economy Philosophy

Whilst there are often clear quantifiable benefits of applying circular principles it is important that we do not lose sight of the bigger picture. It makes sense to rely purely on circular economy principles when trying to reduce finite resource exploitation, however, many building materials today actually have an abundance of supply – see our “Are we running out of materials blog post”. When we are trying to optimise for a different environmental problem, for example, Global Warming, purely focussing on the circular economy principles may not necessarily result in a net positive outcome (as shown above).

Circular economy represents one of the many “means” to the end goal of true environmental sustainability. We must be careful to quantify our strategies and avoid applying circularity simply for the sake of circularity which may sometimes be more detrimental to the planet than a linear strategy. We will need tools such as recycling and re-use to achieve a zero carbon future but material consumption is not in itself always a bad thing if done sustainably relative to the alternatives.



What will green buildings deliver in 50 years?

life cycle design

The construction industry is going through major changes under the Green flag. The greening of building stock and infrastructure becomes more than just an idea, but a strategical attribute in developing the future of the precincts and entire cities all over the world.

The net zero carbon target is ambitious and requires that all new buildings must be operational zero carbon by 2030, and all new and existing buildings must be net zero carbon by 2050.

Transition from building better to building sustainable.

Impact reduction target is a fundamental aspect of concept design and will assist the transition in sustainable construction. Designers and experts are used to discussing energy efficiency, or kWh/m2, but very rarely there is a carbon target (e.g. 100 kgCO2 per m2 of lettable area per year) set at an early project stage (A rough carbon budget for buildings was presented by eTool in a previous blog article).

We hear more often about passive design principles, energy-efficient equipment and storage, carbon-negative materials and a combination of onsite and offsite production of clean energy. Renewable energy generation is increasing at phenomenal speed and it’s transforming the whole economy,  reducing environmental impacts related to building’s operations and manufacturing of construction products.

At a district level, buildings are being thermally and electrically integrated with the community, and energy monitoring platform can track large groups of building performance, scaling up to whole district analysis. Targets climate funding is also helping retrofit existing buildings at municipal level and replicate success cases in other regions.

Different construction sectors define green design through different indicators.

Definition of the green design varies depending on specific needs but aims to accelerate the change towards a future in balance with the planet.

Tenants are motivated by the reduction of operational costs with energy and water bills, but it can also include aesthetics and being environmentally conscious, stating that “I care” or “I am different”.

Home owners would focus on the durability of materials, life of the entire property and low maintenance cost.

Developers would probably look on environmental aspects in combination to total cost and return on investment – called a “Green per Dollar” perspective.

Finally, the precincts and local governments might go with green construction by various reasons: to encourage innovation, long-term city planning including improvement of citizen’s well-being, quality of life and environment.

Life Cycle Design as a method to look inside the black box.

Green design and performance indicators need to be transparent and standardized to satisfy major motivations of groups and individuals. The best way to fully quantify the environmental impact is by looking at the whole of project life cycle performance and using Life Cycle Design (LCD) methodology to model impacts from construction through to the end of life, including use phase impacts. Most importantly, LCD can help to understand the project functionality, and how well it is delivering the proposed primary function. LCD looks at a building through the prism of many features, holistically and over the life time. This prism includes operational energy and water, durability of materials, maintenance and wide spectrum of environmental impacts. LCD approach is combined with Life Cycle Costing to help designers understand the “Green per Dollar” feasibility of improvement initiatives and how economically sustainable the overall design is throughout its lifespan.

Life cycle thinking to build better buildings today.

There´s a global trend in the construction industry to adopt life cycle thinking and we increasingly hear terms like circular economy, cradle-to-grave or even cradle-to-cradle, closed loop recycling or designing for deconstruction. The use of Life Cycle Assessment is increasing in a number of Green Building Rating Schemes (Green Star, LEED, BREEAM, HQE, LBC), and also is the newly available life cycle inventory data, user-friendly LCA software tools, Environmental Product Declarations.

The growth in regulations within the construction industry is also observed, with planning policies mandating environmental reduction targets and improving the general industry know how. Companies are using science based targets to measure efficiency of their climate action plans and understanding how they are related to the UN´s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To meet changing requirements related to a sustainable future within the construction industry, systems and tools need to be widely used from concept stage on throughout the design development process. This will allow project teams to set ambitious environmental targets and therefore implement the life cycle approach to deliver the buildings of the future already today.




UN environment – The Global Status Report 2017 – Towards a zero-emission, efficient, and resilient buildings and construction sector

World Resources Institute – What Is the Future of Green Building?


Want to learn more about eToolLCD and LCA?  Please register for our next webinar event

We hope this article was useful, stay in touch!


How to Price Construction Life Cycle Assessment Services

With the general interest in LCA growing rapidly and ramp-up in LCA credits within Breeam NC 2018 imminent, many of our users are asking us how much work is involved in completing an LCA, how long it takes and what they should be charging their clients for undertaking the work. eTool has always maintained a very transparent approach towards our own pricing structure and we thought it might be useful to share our thoughts on pricing LCA consultancy services.  We have highlighted 3 different approaches for costing an LCA described in detail below.

  • Value to the Developer –  This is the approach eTool take for costing an LCA.  We charge a fee that attempts to reflect the value that the LCA provides to the design team, developer and the planet.  In some circumstances, the consulting work to deliver an LCA of a large apartment block may actually be similar to that of a single house. However, the LCA will provide learning outcomes that can have a much higher impact in terms of environmental benefits or life cycle cost reductions.  Let us take the example of two projects in the UK, a large apartment building with 120 dwellings and a construction budget of £30,000,000 and a small single dwelling development with a budget of £150,000.   An attractive strategy identified in the single dwelling may reduce greenhouse gasses by a total of 100tCO2e and also save the occupants £5,000 in life-cycle costs.  In the apartment building, however, a similar strategy may save 10,000tCO2e and over £1,000,000 in life-cycle costs.  Similarly, if a developer has a specific environmental target, the stakes are much higher in the apartment project.  The cost of abatement is quite critical and can severely increase capital costs if not well understood.  For example, if a 50% reduction of life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions is sought, employing the best strategies on the cost abatement curve may cost the developer £500,000 by targeting the lowest cost of abatement, but employing strategies without this consideration may cost them £1,500,000 to achieve the same environmental outcome.   So regardless of the level of effort in the two projects, there’s a much higher potential value that the apartment stakeholders get from a quality LCA and LCC study.  We like this approach as it aligns the consultant’s motives with both the planet and our customer.  The consultant’s role is to deliver value, so a higher fee should yield more value.  This may be realised by greater effort in identifying low impact strategies and optioneering to ensure meaningful reductions in environmental and cost impacts.
  • Bottom Up – Determining the billable hours to complete the work and charging the consultants the hourly rate plus a profit margin.  The total hours spent on an LCA can vary dramatically depending on the following:
    1. Design stage.  The more detailed the information the more complex the modelling becomes.  A “Target setting” LCA will have no more than a design brief as input information and a basic model may take an hour to complete with another few hours of optimising strategies, a stage 2 LCA may have more detailed information available and take half a day to a day and a detailed stage 4 LCA may take a further day to 2 days to complete.
    2. Quality of information available.  Often the most onerous part of any modelling process is gathering the information required.  If this is orderly and well organised then completing the LCA should be very simple. Cost plans and BIM models can contain good levels of information but are these freely available or will it take months to track them down? Are they complete or missing crucial bits of information? Sometimes it can be quicker and easier to measure up drawings manually rather than spending days chasing down an elusive bill of quantities which may not actually exist!
    3. Design Team Engagement. How involved are the design team in the LCA process?  Will they require optioneering for many small details in the design or are they only interested in some basic high-level results?  More engagement is great and very rewarding for the LCA practitioner but can take time.  If the client is only looking for the bare minimum required to award credits under BREEAM then the LCA may be completed very quickly using the eTool automated reports.
    4. Project Management and Margins.  You want to leave room in the scope for unexpected design changes, complex design elements and of course margin. Don’t forget that for LCA to become mainstream we all want this to be a profitable exercise as well!
    5. The LCA software that you use! Choosing the tool most appropriate for your task is of course very important.  For simple embodied carbon calculations on a single material then a simple spreadsheet (or open use eTool) would suffice. For a full whole-of-building-whole-of-life LCA with multiple environmental indicators then dedicated tools will be far more cost and time effective.  Our door is always open to help you understand the full functionality of eToolLCD. Our unique template system, strategy and option recording and automated reporting are just a few features that enable not only the quick building of an LCA model but detailed and in-depth design analysis for effective feedback to the project team. Why not come along to our next eTooLLCD training event and become a registered eTool LCA practitioner. Join our newsletter to stay informed about eToolLCD webinars, updates and training.
  • Top down: What is the market rate for delivering the LCA?  Often it is a case of testing the waters to understand how much the market is willing to pay for the service and matching the price and level of work accordingly. We have seen practitioner LCA quotes ranging from £3k to over £30k!!  If the user is really enjoying the LCA work they may match the price to be competitive with whatever alternative BREEAM strategy is being considered. Considering BREEAM for example, any design effort that equates to over £2,ooo per credit is often considered a costly strategy (project dependent).  Can your competitors deliver the LCA for this fee if so what added value could you bring beyond their offering?  Alternatively, consider how can you streamline your service to get your client excited about engaging the power of LCA no matter the design stage.  For example, we targeted early stage design with a “Target Setting” LCA service which costs under £2000 and is aimed at very early stage design feedback.  Developers are happy with that service but would be very reluctant to engage in a full LCA study that early in the project.  We can deliver this service to an acceptable accuracy by employing whole building templates and high-level strategy optioneering.  The design team gets quality, quantified feedback on possible low impact strategies and can embed these in the early geometry.

Determining the fee is of course only half of the story.  Making sure the client understands the value that the LCA is bringing to the design service is equally important.  A client who understands the true benefits of LCA; a performance-based design which is driving innovation to deliver quantified savings against science-based targets, is the client you really want to work with! For more on adding value through LCA take a look at my blog post and Henriques webinar.

Why not come along to our next webinar or training events and develop a deep understanding of whats involved in LCA modelling from scratch over 1 day.

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.



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.

What Cladding – a look at life cycle impacts.

Facade impacts can really add up, the cladding in particular on walls can take a real hammering in British weather and could be replaced 2 or 3 times over a buildings life cycle.  Picking the cladding with the lowest impacts can present significant savings both initially at product stage and over the life cycle as that cladding gets replaced.

I dropped a few of the cladding options available under Bre IMPACT to understand the heiarchy of choices that might present low carbon alternatives to design specifications


Of course their are many other factors that should be taken into account – framing, structure, glazing propotion etc but as a basic reference I thought the above might be useful.

eTool is growing! Join Us


eTool operates in the unique space of sustainability via clever technology – join us to be a part of this exciting future.

We offer the world leading life cycle design software for sustainable buildings and infrastructure.  eTool has achieved some particularly exciting milestones over the last 18 months expanding our market reach to become a truly global entity with offices in Australia, the U.K. and Americas.  eTool is recognised by rating schemes such as BREEAM, LEED, Green Star, The Living Building Challenge and One Planet Living.  We also have an impressive tier one client base from which to build on.

At this pivotal point in the company’s journey we are striving to rapidly grow the software subscriber user base and increase our local and global profile. With bright opportunities in front of us right now, we are seeking to hire a driven Business Development Executive to help build on our existing sales trajectories and accelerate revenue for eTool.  The responsibilities of this role will grow with the business, and given eTool’s growth trajectory this presents an excellent opportunity for a high performing employee to take their career to the next level.

eTool provides a flexible working environment and the excitement of working with an ambitious early stage company in a growth field that is vital for tackling climate change.

Business Development Executive (Sustainable Built Environment)


  • Prospecting – building on our client base to accelerate new lead and client generation.
  • Pitching – selling eTool software and consultancy services to the construction sector
  • Communications and closing – following leads and ensuring effective delivery of eTool message throughout sale.
  • Monitoring existing eTool clients – refining our interaction and marketing towards them.
  • Ensuring that eTool clients are “quality” clients – managing expectations and continued engagement to ensure repeat business
  • Maintenance of the customer relations management system and sales reports
  • Assistance in improving sales processes, refining marketing materials and attending events
  • Identification of new markets and potential sales

Required Skills and Experience:

  • Relevant degree and/or masters
  • Excellent sales skills and experience with proven track record
  • Minimum 3 years demonstrable experience in liaising with, engaging and presenting to senior business leaders (preferably within the construction industry)
  • Excellent communication skills particularly spoken and presentation
  • Ability to influence decision makers and drive positive outcomes for construction teams

Desirable Experience:

  • Awareness of Breeam, LEED and sustainability ratings schemes
  • Previous experience or working knowledge of construction and sustainability consultancy (and key challenges they face)


Personal attributes:

This sales role requires initiative, autonomy, persistence and determination.  A desire to make a big contribution to the low carbon future is important, that is how we measure our success.  The maturity to know when, where and how to focus your efforts to foster both the short term and long term success of the business.


Negotiable depending on experience – the right candidate can expect circa 30k base + 15-50k OTE.

This is a key role in a small team with big plans! eTool is setting up an appropriate employee share ownership scheme where key contributors can expect to enjoy the rewards of some equity ownership in this fast growing company over time.

Location and Hours:

Flexible hours and home working available, our UK office is based in Brighton however the candidate may be based anywhere within reasonable travel distance to London (for occasional meetings), a shared local office space can be provided.

Working hours will be full time however, part-time positions could also be considered.

Applicants are advised to complete our questionnaire and upload CV and covering letter to

Redução do Impacto do Ciclo de Vida do Edifício – LEED (Portuguese)

Análise de Ciclo de Vida (ACV) é uma metodologia usada para avaliar os impactos ambientais associados a todas as etapas da vida de um produto ou serviço. É uma abordagem holística que engloba a extração dos materiais, processamento, fabricação, distribuição, uso, reparo, manutenção, descarte e reciclagem ao fim da vida útil. A ACV quantifica os impactos ambientais e compara a performance por meio da funcionalidade do produto ou serviço. A performance de um prédio comercial, por exemplo, pode ser avaliada por meio do impacto ambiental por m2 de área locável por ano (kgCO2/m2/ano). O estudo de ACV permite identificar as potenciais áreas para aumento de performance e redução de impacto ambiental, podendo também incluir recomendações de melhoria para a equipe de projeto. A ACV é regulada pelo padrão internacional ISO 14044 (e EN15978 especificamente para edificações) e a aplicação na área de construção civil é utilizada mundialmente para promover desenvolvimento sustentável.

Na certificação LEED, o objetivo do crédito Redução do Impacto do Ciclo de Vida do Edifício é otimizar o desempenho ambiental de produtos e materiais e permite obtenção de até três pontos. Apesar da metodologia permitir avaliar impactos relacionados a todo o ciclo de vida do projeto, este crédito LEED (opção 4) tem o foco apenas na estrutura e recinto do edifício, durante período de 60 anos. Ao comparar a performance do projeto proposto com o modelo de referência (Baseline), a equipe de projeto deve demonstrar redução de impacto de no mínimo 10% em pelo menos três categorias de impacto (por exemplo: aquecimento global, depleção da camada de ozônio e eutrofização).

A eTool, empresa Australiana especializada em avaliação do ciclo de vida de todo o edifício, desenvolveu o software eToolLCD que atende aos requisitos técnicos da norma ISO 14044 e pode ser utilizado na certificação LEED. A eTool iniciou operações em 2012, já completou mais de 300 análises internacionalmente e é pioneira no uso de ACV para certificação na Austrália (Green Star). Atualmente, está expandindo os serviços na Europa (BREEAM) e nas Américas. Os projetos LEED que utilizaram o software eToolLCD incluem: King Square 2 – Cundall (Austrália), Wildcat Building – Arup (Dinamarca) e ENOC Tower – AESG (Dubai).

“A única forma de garantir redução de impacto ambiental é quantificar a performance ao longo da vida útil do projeto e a metodologia de ACV foi desenvolvida para auxiliar na tomada de decisões. Este crédito LEED será muito importante para as equipes de projeto trabalharem de forma ainda mais integrada e o software eToolLCD facilita muito esta análise”, afirma Henrique Mendonça, engenheiro da eTool que está de volta ao Brasil depois de passar cinco anos na Austrália e se especializar na prática de ACV de toda a edificação.

Saiba mais sobre nossos projetos recentes aqui.



LCA – More than just Breeam credits

Since being awarded IMPACT compliance in Christmas 2015 eTool now have many clients successfully using eTool on either a consulting basis or as LCA software providers.  With an IMPACT compliant LCA they can guarantee the two bonus LCA Materials credits in Breeam New Construction 2011/2014. These credits are awarded as a bonus to the Green Guide materials credits and awarded for completing an LCA and reporting on the results. 6+1 credits can also be achieved under Breeam Fit-out/Refurbishment/International, up to 23 credits in HQM and 3 under LEED.  Upcoming updates to Breeam 2018 will award up to 10 credits.  The LCA modelling can also be used for life cycle costing Man 2 credits, and Mat 06 Resource Efficiency.  The Bre are trying to encourage uptake in LCA and for the time being the credits can be applied at any stage of the design – effectively points for trying.

But! There is a lot more to LCA than just some easy credits.  We prefer the term Life Cycle Design (LCD) to describe the powerful methodology that utilises Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to model full environmental and cost impacts from cradle-to-cradle. Only when a complete picture of a buildings environmental performance over its life cycle is established  we truly know if we are making good design decisions. Benefits of incorporating an LCA approach into you project include:

  • Performance-based approach.  Which has the smaller impact, the nylon carpets shipped from overseas or the wool carpets locally sourced.  Only through quantifying the full impacts in terms of kgCO2e (or any other environmental indicator) can we truly understand.
  • Value engineering. The life cycle model will provide a plethora of design options for improving both the environmental and the cost performance of your asset ranging from zero to high capital cost. Only through quantifying the actual increases/reductions in CO2 and £ can the team prioirtise how to get the best value  from their design – achieving the greatest environmental gain for the smallest capital spend.
  • Innovation. LCA is growing in popularity as the most robust methodology for assessing buildings true environmental performance and represents the next level in sustainability reporting.
  • Approvals.  Certain councils are now giving credit to an LCA approach, sometimes in lieu of targeting costly and inappropriate energy targets (Barnet Council for example). LCA and embodied carbon are also regarded highly within the new London Plan.
  • Infrastructure. Within infrastructure there is a government mandate for HS2 to complete LCA analysis.  LCA also forms a very large part of the PAS2080 standard.

“A clear understanding of absolute impacts at aggregate and detail level is essential for identifying hotspots and exploring the real benefits of improvement opportunities. I highly recommend integrating eTool at earliest project stages to support systems thinking and inform decisions.” Patrick Jeannerat, Colliers International”

Below are just some of the clients who we have been working on LCAs with to date.  Although the primary motivation is often Breeam related, LCA is also providing some fantastic learning outcomes for design teams.



“We have been using eToolLCD for the last year and have completed 3 certified assessments.  This has enabled us to give our clients and design teams valuable information on the environmental impacts of design options as well as giving an additional 2% to the projects BREEAM assessment once the eToolLCD model has been certified.” David Barnes, Volker Fitzpatrick 

Aligned with international standards for LCA, Life Cycle Design is guarenteed to enhance the sustainability of your project regardless of your role, the type of project or what stage it’s at. Find out more about our recent projects here.