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
  • Up to 4 further credits available for Superstructure options appraisals during RIBA stages 2 and 4
  • 1 credit available for substructure, landscaping options appraisal 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 demonstrating how the LCA has been integrated into the design and the design team responses at stages 2 and 4.

eTool’s Thoughts

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 land owners 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, acidfication, 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 provide 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 Allignment: Aligning he 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 soffering. 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.

 

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 practiotioner 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.

What Cladding?

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

Capture

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)

Responsibilities

  • 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.

Salary:

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 http://etool.polldaddy.com/s/etoolbdcoordinator

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 easy 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.  The tool can also be used to assist in 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.

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.

etoolclients

“We have been using eToolLCD for the last year and have completed 3 certified assessments.  As with any new software there is a learning curve involved but the training and level of support has been excellent and we can now complete an IMPACT assessment on our project in a couple of days (depending on complexity).  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 

Find out more about our recent projects here.

 

 

GBCA Feedback

eTool drives on innovation and forward thinking to bring solutions and help us mitigate environmental impacts. We have been working closely with GBCA since 2013 when LCA was included as an Innovation Challenge. Since completing its first LCA later that year, eTool has become a leader in providing consultancy and software services related to LCA for the Green Building industry.
There are now over 50 projects that used eToolLCD to achieve the Materials Life Cycle Impact credit and technical experience was developed internally at eTool and amongst software users.
The construction industry is moving to LCA for environmental decision making, and recognising that the only way to prevent adverse trade off is to use life cycle assessment within a life cycle design process. Following this global trend, eTool thought it was very important to provide feedback when GBCA opened for public consultation. Here are some of the key points included:
• Consideration of functionality in the principles, and use of LCA as early as possible to inform the design process.
• Normalisation and weighting should be considered to prevent negative trade offs between environmental impacts and guarantee whole of building performance.
• Use of LCA model to calculate GHG, Water and other life cycle impacts because it is very flexible, it delivers good environmental outcomes and it is aligned with global trend, which simplifies the maintenance of GS calculator tools.
We look forward to the advancements of LCA use within the Green Building industry so please stay tuned for more news on this soon.

 

5 Ways to add value to your services using Life Cycle Design

Life Cycle Design (LCD) has quickly become the go-to method for defining sustainability in buildings in governments, green building councils and organisations around the world. It is considered best practice for good building design by the International Standard Organization (ISO 14044) and is a powerful methodology for ensuring genuinely sustainable and high performance outcomes.

This article and video recording provide an overview of Life Cycle Design and explain five ways to add value to your services using LCD. Be inspired by how LCD has been incorporated in different sectors and projects, and how key stakeholders have taken it on board.

Some of the topics covered include:

What is Life Cycle Design and the methodology
The importance of green buildings and measuring building environmental performance
Green Star projects – general overview
LCA as a required part of ESD tender documentation
ISCA and use of LCD as an integrated desgin approach
LCD for regulatory approvals
Marketing and sales campaign
eToolLCD software 

 

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Closed Loop Recycling and EN15978 – how does it work?

I’ve heard its complicated why is that?

We need to reward recycling but also have to be careful not to double count the benefits (at the start and end of life for example).  The approach under EN15978 is as follows:

  • to reward “design for deconstruction” as the key driver that determines the net results over the whole life of a building
  • to allocate economically, so if a product is a waste product at the end of the buildings’ life (there is no market for it, so it costs money to remove it from site rather than having some sort of scrap value) then any benefits associated with recycling that product are picked up by the next person who uses it.  So essentially, recycled timber is all rewarded at the start of the building’s life.  Recycled aluminium is all rewarded at the end (in net terms)

Allocation of reused products from other industries are also done economically, one example of this is recycled fly ash or blast furnace slag in concrete.  Because Blast Furnace has some value, it’s not as attractive environmentally as fly ash

The rules for recycling allocation under the EN15978 methodology were initially somewhat mind-boggling for me.  To understand them you will  likely need to take a number of re-visits and you should try to wipe out any preconceptions you may have on recycling.

So how does it work?.

Lets start with what is included in the scope of En15978 first,

boundary

Note that Module D is actually a form of “System Expansion” and one could argue is outside of the life cycle of the building.

Before we look into recycling allocation further we also need to understand a few definitions.

Recycled content is the proportion of recycled material used to create the product, the global industry average recycled content of aluminium today is approximately 35%. This means that in 100kg of aluminium 35kg comes from old recycled aluminium and 65kg comes from new raw material.

Recycling rate is the proportion of useful material that gets sent back into the economy when the product comes to the end of its life. The global industry average recycling rate of aluminium today is approximately 57%. This means that in 100kg of waste aluminium 57kg will be recycled into new aluminium products and 43kg will be sent to landfill.

Closed loop recycling, whereby a product is recycled into the same product (e.g. steel roof panel recycled into steel reinforcement).  The loop is closed because when the steel product comes to the end of its life it can be recycled into a new steel product (theoretically this can happen continually forever).  Closed loop is more straightforward to calculate as the emissions are directly offset by the new product that would have been required to be made from scratch.

Open loop recycling is when the product is used to create something new (e.g. old plastic bottles recycled into carpet).  The loop is open because the plastic now in the carpet required other material inputs to create the carpet and cannot be recycled further (if a process is developed that can continually recycle the plastic carpet then it becomes closed loop). We use economic allocation to understand the impacts that are being offset.

Now lets focus on a closed loop recycling example of a standalone 1000 kg of ‘General Aluminium’ modeled in eTool.  Under EN15978 scope impacts under module D – Benefits and loads outside the system boundary are quantified.  This includes closed loop recycling which is not directly related to the actual physical boundary or life cycle of the building.

The life cycle stages for the aluminium are shown below

alum recy 1

Kg CO2e by LC stage for 1000kg of general aluminium 

Hang on, the impacts are bigger for the 100% recycled content option???

Well, there is an initial saving in the product stage of 18,280 kg CO2e from using 100% recycled content aluminium versus using a 100% raw material. The no recovery option also gets a small advantage for transport of waste (C2) because landfill sites tend to be closer to a building than recycling sites on average. The no recovery option is also (very slightly) penalised for disposal impacts, if the aluminium is recovered it has 0 disposal impacts because it is sent to the recycling plant and these impacts are counted in the A1-A3 stage of the new aluminium product. The interesting result though is in the closed loop recycling.  We have a credit applied to the aluminium that is recovered and put back in the economy. This is effectively offsetting the assumed extraction requirement for the new aluminium to be used in the (aluminium) economy – for example in the next building.  Likewise aluminium that is not recovered causes a higher net demand for new aluminium.  To determine the ‘credit’ or ‘penalty’ at the end of the building’s life, the net increase in new aluminium required due to the use of the aluminium in the building is calculated.  In the 100% recycled content, 0% recovered the material is penalised by the equivalent mass of new aluminium which will need to be extracted to supply the next building.

Hmmmmmm…

Yes it may seem counter-intuitive but try to think of the world aluminium economy as a single life cycle entity.  If everyone used only 100% recycled aluminium that has 0 end-of-life recycling rate (ie it ends up in landfill) then we would soon run out of recycled aluminium available.  We would have to go back to using raw aluminium (maybe even start digging it back out from landfill!).  By encouraging recovery of the aluminium EN15978 is trying to discourage the overall extraction of the raw material.

O.K. That wasn’t too bad

So far so good but it gets trickier! Lets imagine we have fully recycled content and fully recovered aluminium,

Well you get the best of both worlds – reduced product stage and closed loop credits right?

Wrong!  Here is what happens….

alum recy 2

Kg CO2e by LC stage for 1000kg of general aluminium 

The minus CO2e credit at end of life can not be applied in this instance because you are already using 100% recycled aluminium. There is no material extraction in this case to offset and your end-of-life credit is 0. You don’t get penalised for the added extraction for the future building but you don’t get credit for it because that has already been given in the product stage. Under EN15978 there is actually a very similar amount of carbon associated with a 0% recycled/100% recovered aluminium scenario and a 100% recycled/100% recovered aluminium.

Whoa, that’s deep.

Its a tricky one and there is certainly an argument to say this is not encouraging the right behaviour but the emphasis on end-of-life treatment means that the impacts are accounted for and credit is given without double counting.

So what do we take from all of this?

Recycling content and rate is an important consideration in buildings but it is no silver bullet. Every little helps in sustainability though. Focus on the durability and deconstructability of the product over the recycled content which under EN15978 has a relatively small impact on the environmental performance.

*Note figures show are taken from eToolLCD September 2016

References: Recycling Rates of Metals, T E Graedel, 2011

the-new-perth-stadium-and-sports-precinct-amphitheatre

Perth Stadium – Kicking Goals with LCA

As part of an overall environmental strategy stipulated by the State Government, LCA has been integrated into the design and construction of Perth Stadium.  eTool produced life cycle assessment analysis in three stages forming part of the overall design strategy as outlined below.

 

the-new-perth-stadium-and-sports-precinct-view-from-the-south-east91476cb055b76ffab2a0ff0100ce4282 the-new-perth-stadium-and-sports-precinct-athletics-format

 

Process

Stage 1: An initial “Targeting Study” was completed during bid stages whereby two initial models were developed – an initial LCA model of Perth Stadium and a benchmark LCA model of the already constructed Etihad Stadium (Melbourne) which was considered a typical stadium build.  From the outset, Perth Stadium was indicating an improvement over the benchmark due to the predominantly steel structure which is inherently lower in CO2e emissions compared to concrete structures.  The targeting study also highlighted a number of CO2e hotspots such as food and drinks refrigerators which are typically left on between games.  Controls to switch off non-perishable items between events were an obvious easy win and one which the design team was confident in being able to implement.

Stage 2: As the design progressed, further information became available and the models accuracy was increased and consolidated with bills of quantities.  With steel and concrete contributing the majority of the embodied impacts, it was important that these elements were accurate.  The refrigerant gasses for chillers and food refrigerators was also included which contributed over 2% towards the total CO2e impacts, with the Stadium seating also found to have very high recurring impacts.  Strategies put forward included using a low impact refrigerant such as CO2 and specifying extended warranties for the seating in order to increase the duration of their useful life (hence lowering their impact).

Stage 3:  The model was finalised to include all recommendations uptaken as well as final quantities for materials and energy modelling figures.  The design team were able to implement the following:

Strategies to switch-off non perishable item fridges between events

Blast Furnace Slag replacement in some structural concrete elements

Extended Seat Warranty effectively prolonging the predicted lifespan of the seats

The State LCA requirements were as follows.

– a 7% reduction against the benchmark in product stages (A1-A5)

– a 5% reduction in Maintenance stages (B2-B5)

– a 20% reduction in Operational stages (B6-B7)

Results

The LCA analysis was able to successfully show performance against these impacts and quickly develop effective strategies to meet the targets.  The final design specification shows overall life cycle impacts of 7.68 tCO2e/seat/year; which when split across the planned 37 events per year results in impacts of 0.2 tCO2e/visit.  This exceeds the targets with a

– a 9.1% reduction in product stages (A1-A5)

– a 8.1% reduction in Maintenance stages (B2-B5)

– a 32.2% reduction in Operational stages (B6-B7)

The study also highlights the importance of taking a Life Cycle approach towards targets.  When targets are set for individual elements perverse outcomes can occur.  For example, PV panels are very effective in reducing life cycle emissions in Western Australia, however in this instance they would negatively affect the maintenance target (due to the replacement of the panels).  eTool recommends that a single whole of life approach is taken to ensure absolute environmental benefit is achieved.

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Grid-tied VS Off-grid Solar PV systems

Introduction

With the tremendous uptake of residential solar PV installations all around the world, the next question that often comes to mind is: to stay grid connected or go off-grid? For most people who are concerned about environmental issues, they might be led to believe that completely weaning off our fossil fuel powered grid is the truest form of sustainable living. However, here at eTool we like to challenge people’s beliefs based on data from life-cycle analysis.

To start, let’s quickly look at the difference between the two systems.

Grid-tied

Grid-tied PV system

 

A grid-tied system is connected to the utility grid. In new systems, there is only one meter that measures both in-coming and out-going power to the house. Power generated from the solar panels goes through the inverter which converts DC to AC which then used throughout the house. Any left-over power that is not used goes out to the meter where it is measured then fed into the grid to be consumed elsewhere. This system has no on-site battery storage so any solar power that is not used at the time it is generated will be fed directly out to the grid. When no energy is generated by the solar panels such as at night or on overcast days, power will be drawn back from the grid to supply the house.

Off-grid

Off-grid PV system

 

An off-grid system means that the system has no connection to the grid at all. In this situation, battery storage is necessary in order to provide power to the house when there is no power generated by the PV system. An additional on-site generator may also be required as a backup in case the stored power runs out. In this system, the power from the solar panels goes through a charge controller or battery regulator then into the battery bank for storage. On demand, the power is drawn from the batteries through an inverter then to the house to be used. If the power stored in the batteries run out, a generator can be started to produce backup energy.

 

LCA Comparison

Carbon Intensive Grids

 

SYSTEM TYPE SPECIFICATIONS
AU Standard Structure – timber + double brick
Cooking – Electric
HWS – Gas storage
HVAC – Airsource heat pump (MEPS ave)
Lighting – CFL
Refrigeration – AU average
Water – AU average

In order to compare the systems, we will use LCA to quantify the impacts in CO2e. We assume that all other factors are constant such as water, gas and the carbon intensity of the grid. The table above shows the building structure and appliance specifications for a standard Australian detached home. Only the PV systems will change in order to better compare the difference between grid-tied and off-grid.

Graph1

The graphs above shows the life-cycle carbon impact of a standard Australian home with no PV system installed. We can see that the life-cycle energy of the building takes up the largest portion of the overall impacts of the building. The graph on the right shows the end-use breakdown of the standard Australian household’s energy use.

Graph2

The blue column on the left in Graph 2 above is a standard Australian home with no PV. The red column is an off-grid system sized to provide 100% solar power throughout the year. This is a 15kW PV with about 100kWh of battery storage to provide backup power for 3 days while the green column is the grid-tied version with 15kW of PV without battery storage. The orange& dotted columns show the impact of a smaller off-grid 8.5kW PV system with 60kWh of battery storage. The dotted orange column has an additional backup diesel generator that provides 10% of the energy demand. The teal column on the right is the grid-tied equivalent with 8.5kW PV and no diesel backup or battery storage.

We can see that installing a PV system alone has a significant effect at reducing the CO2e impact of the building. Note that despite a near two-fold increase in the amount of PV, the life-cycle carbon savings in the off-grid system only has marginal improvement when compared to the grid-tied system. This is due to the high embodied impacts of the larger PV system which are underutilized in the off-grid system whereas in the grid-tied system all extra power generated by the over-sized system is fed into the grid.

Graph3

In the graph above, we compare the category breakdown of the 15kW PV systems versus the AU standard home, we can see that while the life-cycle energy use of the solar powered homes have dropped significantly, the recurring impacts on the other hand have increased due to the impacts related to replacing PV panels and batteries.

Low Carbon Intensity Grids

In areas with cleaner grids, in this example I’ve used the Tasmanian grid (even though it is still connected to the NEM) – is a grid-tied PV system still relevant?

Graph4

 

The graph above shows that although the proportion of savings is much less in a low-carbon grid, a grid-tied PV system still has a lower life-cycle CO2e impact compared to an off-grid system. In areas with cleaner grids, the embodied energy impact of the building becomes proportionately more important than the operational energy as shown in the graph below.

Graph5

 

Best Practice Design

How about a house that is designed by someone who knows what sustainability is about? Let say they designed using low-embodied energy materials and didn’t install any air-conditioners – how would such a house compare? The low-impact or ‘best practice’ design building assumes that the occupants are more sustainably conscious and try to reduce electricity demand as much as possible in the choice of appliances they will use and are more likely to build with low embodied impact materials such mud brick. A detailed list of specifications in the ‘best practice’ house are listed below while still assuming Australian averages for water and refrigeration energy use. Based on these specifications, the off-grid ‘best practice’ home will need 4kW of PV and 48kWh of battery storage assuming 10% of the energy demand to be provided by a diesel generator.

 

SYSTEM TYPE SPECIFICATIONS
Best Practice Structure – mud brick
Cooking – Wood
HWS – biomass
HVAC – ceiling fans+wood pellet heater
Lighting – LED
Refrigeration – AU average
Water – AU average
PV – 4kW
Off-grid Backup –  48kWh battery storage + diesel generator

The graphs below show the global warming impact of a ‘best practice’ home on an Australian average grid the embodied and operation energy breakdown and the carbon impacts on a low-carbon grid. Even though the overall life-cycle carbon impacts of the building has dropped significantly due to the ‘best practice’ design, the results still indicate that being grid-connected is better for the environment in both grid situations.
Graph6 Graph5 Graph4

 

 

Conclusion

In areas with carbon intensive grids such as Australia, it is important to help ‘clean up’ the grid by staying grid-connected with our PV systems. This is due to the fact that all the excess potential energy from off-grid PV panels is ‘wasted’ instead of captured to be used elsewhere. An off-grid setup will usually have a PV system that is large enough to meet most of the energy demand of the household throughout the year. This means that the system will be sized to produce enough power in winter but in summer when there is more daylight, the extra electricity generated by the system will be wasted.

A grid-tied system on the other hand is able to take advantage of an existing energy network and maximise the energy generation potential of their PV systems as any excess energy is fed back into the grid to be utilised elsewhere. This means that the embodied energy of the building can also be offset when the building produces more renewable energy than it consumes throughout its life.

A cleaner grid also means that other homes, offices and industries such as water desalination plants and manufacturers that use this cleaner electricity will be less carbon intensive. We all benefit from the knock-on effects of staying grid-connected.

For areas where the grid is already ‘clean’, the operational energy impacts become less significant from a carbon perspective but you’re still better to have grid-tied PV. Staying connected in a green-grid also helps avoid the additional embodied impacts from an oversized PV & battery storage system.

 

Graph9

Bear in mind that there are other resources and technologies that haven’t been modelled here which may provide better solutions by taking the best of both systems. For example, hybrid systems combine the advantages of grid connection with battery storage to help moderate grid loads. To provide an efficient solution to large scale energy distribution, ‘Smart Grid’ systems that monitor and control the grid’s energy distribution and production is the way to go. Combine smart grids with hybrid solar systems and the economics and efficiency of renewable energy distribution and supply grid will be greatly improved. Nevertheless, the underlying message still points to the fact that staying grid-tied is the key in order to stay most sustainably relevant today and in the future.

Tesla most recently announced their low-cost ‘Powerwall’ battery storage system which will affect the current PV market.