The Complete Guide To Carbon Management in Real Estate

With the built environment responsible for 40% of global carbon emissions, decarbonising real estate assets must be a key priority for investors and corporate occupiers.

Real Estate Portfolio Carbon Management

The commercial real estate industry has accelerated its focus on responsibility and social purpose. Occupiers, investors and city leaders each have a role to play in meeting demand for greener, more sustainable spaces, and how it can no longer be seen as “just another expense”, instead essential to achieve better sustainability outcomes and financial returns.

We have seen governments facing pressure to pledge ambitious net zero targets, but meeting these targets depends on more than government pledges, with businesses and investors having a vital role to play. Reports have shown that when businesses consider the environmental impact of their investments, they subsequently yield greater value in the future – both from a financial and environmental point of view. The climate crisis poses a financial risk in terms of both physical and transition risks. Transition risks will arise as the economy shifts to become low-carbon and more climate-resilient. As a result, we are seeing more organisations making zero carbon commitments and restructuring their business model and operations to hit their reduction targets.

Main motivations for Real Estate Investment Managers to consider a Carbon Management Plan:

  • Growing pressure with climate-related risks and financial disclosures;
  • ESG Program covering emissions Scope 1, 2 and 3, and a pathway for net zero target;
  • Reliability and Consistency following recognised and approved international standards;
  • Science-based decision making process for more sustainable and cost effective choices at early design stage;
  • Recognition for Industry leadership and collaboration.

Life Cycle Design for projects and portfolio

Over the past decades legislation has focused on the operational impacts of buildings from heating and lighting, rather than on the impacts from the construction materials. In the majority of  countries there is still no legislation requiring the measurement of embodied carbon, although some countries are now providing leadership. There is also insufficient transparency and availability of comparable data for designers, contractors and decision makers.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been recognised as the most comprehensive method for calculating and reporting greenhouse gas emissions for construction projects. Life-cycle assessments and resulting life-cycle cost considerations are becoming increasingly important and turn the focus on the long-term benefits of sustainable real estate.

In the real estate market in particular, the use of LCA will enable investors to quantify, compare and improve the environmental performance of their assets, and more broadly, the use of LCA will assist in showing how real estate assets that have the highest level of sustainable performance, can drive higher rental incomes and increase client satisfaction. 

“Clients in the real estate market have benefited from the extensive information that can be extracted from eToolLCD and used in Sustainability reports and Carbon Management Programs. Goodman Group and Frasers Property have committed to reduce and offset their Embodied carbon emissions. Using eToolLCD software helps to achieve this goal across their entire portfolio” – says Maryia Perthen, eTool BD Manager.

eTool provides eToolLCD, a calculation tool to measure and report whole life carbon, including both operational and embodied emissions associated with individual projects and portfolios. This calculation covers initial and long term impacts of:

  • Materials
  • Transport
  • Construction
  • Operation (maintenance, repair, replacement)
  • Operational Energy (gas, electricity, other sources)
  • Operational Water supply and treatment
  • End of Life (demolition, waste processing, disposal)
  • Benefits and Impacts beyond the system boundary (product reuse, energy export)

The figure below explains the different life cycle stages and split between embodied and operational carbon:

Life Cycle Design methodology applied to Portfolio Carbon Management will enable Real Estate Investment Managers to track, improve and demonstrate emissions reduction on the path to net zero

  • Measure: Quantify baseline emissions of each building, conduct hot-spot analysis and determine how far there is to go to reach zero emissions.
  • Compare and set a reduction target: Develop a target to achieve the objectives of investors, regulatory requirements/bodies and stakeholders.
  • Create scenarios and reduce impact: Understand the contribution of each improvement strategy and prioritise to achieve the best life cycle return on investment.
  • Certify results and report: Conduct independent review of models and produce results aligned with standards for increased transparency and consistency.

Utilise LCA across the value chain

The use of Life Cycle Analysis is not limited to new build projects only. By utilising the power of eToolLCD, investors can quantify the environmental impacts of any construction project or existing real estate portfolio. Examples include:

  • Modelling Existing Buildings for Adaptive-Reuse in eToolLCD
  • Foot Printing “As Built” or Existing Building
  • Retrofit or Refurbishment of Existing Building
  • New Building that Retains Parts of Existing Building

New Build and Refurbishment Projects

No matter the size of the project, eToolLCD can be utilised throughout all the relevant project stages, allowing the users to model effective component and building level LCA assessments at any project phase.

eToolLCD has benchmark models that can be used at concept stage when only typology and rough floor area is defined. As the design progresses, eToolLCD’s unique template system can be utilised to provide industry average specification and quantities of construction components (piling system, floor slab, structural elements, walls, finishes, services, etc) as well as operational energy and operational water figures. 

Our ever growing library contains 1000’s of templates applicable to all kinds of building and infrastructure projects being built across the globe. Users have the ability to customise construction components and also combine templates to create whole project benchmarks

Standing Assets

eToolLCD can fully support investor and corporate occupiers requirements with regards to Standing Assets, and will enable Facilities Managers to record actual in-use emissions on an annual basis. This will allow the client to better understand the carbon impacts of maintenance, repair and replacement cycles, and to improve this going forward.

eToolLCD can also be utilised to coordinate the expected replacement cycles of key elements (e.g. central plant) and ensure that purchasing can be done with the optimum carbon and financial efficiency on a portfolio wide basis.

Achieve life cycle environmental net benefit

An example of how Life Cycle Design methodology can be used to make informed decisions, is to calculate the environmental payback of a Solar Photovoltaic system over its whole life cycle. The same system can take twice as long to payback in environmental terms depending on the location and the carbon intensity the solar PV system is connected to. There is no simple answer as the result will depend on multiple variables including:

  • Technology efficiency, durability, warranty terms;
  • Solar generation capacity: location, shading, maintenance, cleaning;
  • Environmental Product Declaration – solar panels, inverter, cabling, framing
  • Electricity Grid carbon intensity, as the replaced energy source
  • Electricity Grid decarbonisation factor, accounting for increase contribution of renewables

Industry progress and motivators

Regulatory requirements

There is also a main driving force for change that will be made at a national government level, through legislation and regulations to reduce emissions. Various examples throughout the globe include:

  • The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently released a proposed rule requiring mandatory climate disclosure from all U.S. public companies, called the Enhancement and Standardization of Climate-Related Disclosures for Investors
  • Climate standard of the IFRS’ International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB)
  • Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TFCD)

Embodied Carbon Regulations

  • London Plan Policy SI 2 sets out a requirement for developments to calculate and reduce WLC emissions.
  • Part Z – A Proposed Amendment to UK Building Regulations to introduce legislation towards mandatory reporting of carbon emissions in the built environment, along with limiting embodied carbon emissions on projects.
  • Various other regulatory programs in Canada, France, Netherlands and USA.

Other non-regulatory requirements include for example, the World Green Building Council’s (WGBC) Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment to reduce (and compensate) all operational and upfront embodied carbon emissions by 2030.

Environmental data and software tools

Regulations will help create free-to-use products and buildings database to reduce complexity and assist the benchmarking and target setting process.

  • Standardisation
  • Increase research and development
  • Reduced complexity, web-based and easy to use
  • Cost effective, SaaS model
  • Increased market demand to meet rating schemes and regulatory requirements

Supporting Green Rating Schemes and Regulatory Requirements

As LCA of the built environment rapidly propagates as a standard component of sustainable design, most rating schemes (buildings and infrastructure) around the world have begun to or/and have already integrated LCA into their credits and framework. eToolLCD meets the requirements of many international schemes and has been successfully utilised to improve the rating performance for many projects all over the world. 

LCA studies conducted for Rating System purposes (frequently with a limited scope covered) can be integrated with LCA studies conducted for Corporate Reporting or Regulatory purpose and ensure the alignment between different use and application of sustainability credentials and LCA results. One example is the increased use of eToolLCD to meet the London Plan – Whole Life Carbon Assessment requirements. eToolLCD is approved by the Greater London Authority (GLA) and is aligned with the RICS guidance to ensure consistency in the lifecycle carbon results. 

Benchmarking embodied carbon

Embodied carbon of new buildings now represents a significant contributor to total emissions. Embodied carbon is often associated with Supply Chain emissions and Scope 3 emissions. Carbon emissions released before the building begins to be used (upfront carbon), will be responsible for half of the entire carbon footprint of new construction between now and 2050.

In order to prevent and mitigate embodied emissions, increase resource efficiency and stimulate the development and market supply of low carbon products, the sector must:

  • reduce and account for its impact on the environment and natural resources through design and construction, and
  • generate a strong and urgent demand signal to activate the necessary finance to decarbonise materials, construction and heavy industry processes.

Advantages of using LCA to calculate embodied carbon

  • Reliable industry-based data (EPD, LCA process-based inventory)
  • Data quality requirements (ISO, EN standard compliant)
  • Tools and functionality (increased scope, streamlined modelling and reporting process (Importing features, BIM integration)
  • Consistency/common metric, standard compliant results and reporting
  • Independent review, third party verification

Recommended process for benchmarking embodied carbon

  • Calculation method: Standard BS EN 15978:2011 Sustainability of construction works. Assessment of environmental performance of buildings.
  • Technical Guidance: RICS Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment
  • System boundary, life cycle stages: Whole life carbon (A-D) and Embodied Carbon (A1-A5, B1-B5, C1-C4)
  • Construction Scope: Substructure, Superstructure, Façade, Finishes, Services, Fittings and Furnishing
  • Data quality: Standard compliant data (EN15804, ISO21930, EPD) Utilise detailed spec: volume, mass, size, quantity, not only financial information.
  • Independent review: Standard compliant review (ISO14044)

Benchmarking and target setting using LCA As-built calculation

  • Accurate measurement of the true embodied carbon to practical completion of a project
  • Specification and origin (for Modules A1–A3) of each product and material delivered to site
  • Transportation mode and distance (for Module A4), will be known in detail
  • On-site material waste tracking and construction activity energy metering will inform a precise Module A5 value.

Impact Reduction Targets

According to the AR6 WG1 report, IPCC (August 2021): the residual global carbon budget to remain within 1.5° global warming with 66% probability is given as 400 billion tonnes CO2 from the start of 2020. Global CO2 emissions are about 36 billion tonnes per year, so the 400 billion tonnes will last just 11 years if no reductions are made.

For a high polluting country such as the UK, with CO2 emissions of 10 tonnes per person per year, the carbon budget will run out by the end of 2024, i.e. in 2 years

Embodied Carbon becomes more relevant in the route to Zero Carbon with the ultra energy efficient buildings and grid decarbonisation. Technical working groups like eTool, LETI, RIBA, GLA, CLF and World GBC recommend at least 40% reduction in embodied carbon by 2030.

As the organisation´s knowledge of embodied carbon increases, assessments utilising LCA methodology undertaken earlier in the design phase become easier to use for decision making. This in turn will lead to increased opportunities to take action on reducing the embodied carbon impact of projects and activities.

  1. Prioritize “Circular Design” – less new buildings and more reuse and refurbishment
  2. Designing more efficient buildings – reduce material and energy demand
  3. Requiring design optimization to use less material and chose lower carbon materials
  4. Requiring low- carbon procurement to ensure the materials used are lower impact than average

Functionality – maximise project primary function:

  • Net Lettable Area
  • Increased lifespan
  • Occupancy

Design and Structural optimisation:

  • Low Carbon Material (biobased)
  • Run whole life carbon scenarios for energy and buildings services
  • EPD – Use buying power to encourage and support the suppliers in their value chain to adopt more sustainable business practices.
  • Design for deconstruction and disassembly

Solutions to reduce emissions within the supply chain will be the most challenging, yet most impactful.

How to achieve your net zero carbon reduction target

  1. Identify key drivers – Investor pressure, tenant demand and increased asset value;
  2. Circular design – Less new buildings and more reuse and refurbishment projects
  3. ESG Program and Carbon Policy – Set targets and consistent requirements for all projects to follow across all their phases;
  4. Define scope and what it means to achieve net zero carbon in practice – Standard compliant whole life carbon calculation and reporting (EN15978);
  5. Quantify and improve performance – Measure the carbon footprint today and define strategies to hit desired target;
  6. Reduce Embodied Carbon – Optimise design to use less material and choose lower carbon options to achieve savings from upfront emissions, as well as operational and end of life embodied carbon;
    1. Materials efficiency can include using lightweight structures or secondary raw materials and products, minimising material loss on the building site and improving the service life and thus durability of products used in buildings. Structural designs for example are often over-engineered and dimensioned above the required level of performance.
    2. Ensuring the use of lowimpact refrigerants in projects should be a priority for all projects using refrigerant-based systems.
    3. Plan, design and specify low-carbon concrete solutions.
  7. Reduce energy consumption – Increase efficiency and the use of renewable energy. Eliminate fossil fuels.

Return on investment

Investors who target a sustainable strategy are rewarded through a combination of higher rents, stronger leasing velocity and higher occupancy rates throughout the cycle.

Global property insurance premiums have grown significantly as real estate portfolios sustain physical damage from natural disasters. Many existing properties will be rated as “high carbon” and will successively fall behind when competing for customers and occupancy rates and investors in the mid to longer term future.

Real-estate organisations can use their physical presence to generate and store energy with solar arrays and batteries, helping to stabilise energy grids and reduce the costs associated with clean energy. Firms can introduce new revenue streams, including vehicle charging, green-facilities management, and other on-site services that enable occupants’ sustainable preferences. Organisations can support occupants by tracking emissions using smart sensors and tracking energy consumption through heating, cooling, lighting, and space management.

Firms that are able to lower impact will reduce future costs of carbon offsetting and also have an advantage in attracting capital for net-zero buildings or investment themes that support community-scale decarbonization.

eToolLCD Software Features

Real Estate Portfolio Wide Reporting

Investors and corporate occupiers who are required to report their portfolio emissions, can utilise the robust LCA data available in eToolLCD via our reporting functionality. 

The reporting structure uses a Life-Cycle approach instead of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol standard (Scope 1, 2 and 3), and includes all assessment and reporting in relation to BS EN15978 life cycle stages (Product, Construction, Use, End of Life, Beyond project life cycle) to ensure the whole asset life cycle emissions are included in scope. GHG Protocol Scope 1, 2 and 3 results can also be extracted from eToolLCD.

eToolLCD Portfolio Wide Reporting allows the client to calculate and report Whole Life emissions applied to major developments, refurbishments, deconstruction of an asset and in-use developments. Software users can utilise the organisation dashboard, where GHG emission and reduction from all projects can be quantified. Software users can create projects and collaborate with the internal design team and external specialists in one centralised portal in eToolLCD.

Life Cycle Costing

LCA and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) Integration. It is unavoidable that where there is carbon, there is going to be a cost associated. However it is not always clear to the investor or client, that by reducing the environmental impacts, can also improve the bottom line. 

One of the most powerful parts of eToolLCD’s unique template structure is the inclusion of data on all people and equipment impacts as well as materials that make up a construction component. Templates include maintenance as well as replacement costs over the project life cycle, allowing users to conduct Life Cycle Costing integrated with environmental performance. More info on eToolLCD advanced features.

Common challenges and best practices in data collection and reporting

Organisations are used to GHG Protocol, mainly focusing on Scope 1 and 2 and not including Scope 3. Real Estate emissions categorised as Scope 3 are extremely significant and must be part of the calculation and reporting framework. Since Scope 3 emissions are not directly under a company’s control, they are difficult to assess. But companies cannot afford to bypass or ignore them anymore.

However it is important to distinguish between embodied carbon and what is classified as scope 3. For example:

  • tenant energy use (B6) is reported as scope 3, but it is not embodied carbon, it is indirect emissions, not controlled by the asset owner.
  • refrigerant gases fugitive emissions (B1 and Scope1) and equipment use (A5) depends if it is directly controlled by the organisation (Scope 1) or sub-contracted (Scope 3).

A whole life carbon approach using the project life cycle stages make it easier to assess all emissions associated with the project life cycle, despite the fact if they are owned or controlled by the organisation (direct / indirect) or upstream / downstream emissions.

Carbon Accounting vs Life Cycle Design. Carbon Accounting will focus on past emissions and use this information to help mitigate future emissions. Life Cycle Design has a focus on forecasting both upfront and long term emissions during early concept stage and preventing these emissions from occurring by finding better alternatives.

Carbon calculation based on LCA has specific standards for construction projects (EN15978) and materials (EN15804, ISO21930) which makes it easier for Real Estate organisations to include all emissions in scope with increased consistency and reproducibility.

About eTool

eTool serves the organisations who are aiming to lead the industry in delivering low carbon buildings and infrastructure. eTool provides eToolLCD software for optimising whole of life carbon and cost of new and existing construction projects, aligned with best practice international standards for Life Cycle Assessment. eToolLCD life cycle design software is targeted at large construction projects and asset portfolios. It is a technically superior, secure, collaborative, holistic, high value carbon management platform. Proven by our world leading customer and project list.

eToolLCD software will provide the following benefits when used as part of an ESG Program:

  • Easy to use and collaborative, large user base of LCA experts
  • Whole life carbon calculation, including both operational and embodied carbon
  • Detailed calculation of embodied carbon including upfront, maintenance and end of life emissions.
  • Full carbon accounting and extraction of results aligned with GHG Protocol (Scope 1, 2 and 3)
  • Design tool to assist the decision making process and best return on investment
  • Carbon management at project level as well as whole portfolio
  • Standard compliant data for materials and services (generic and product specific EPD), transport, construction impacts, operational water and operational energy

 

References:

UKGBC Scope 3 Guidance for Commercial Real Estate

 

 

 

Big News for Low Carbon Infrastructure

eTool achieved an IMPORTANT MILESTONE in March 2022 and we’d like to share some GOOD news with you:

Approval of eToolLCD by the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia

eToolLCD (v18) has received official ISC Approval as ‘equivalent’ to the Infrastructure Sustainability Materials Calculator (ISMC v2.0.08) when configured in-line with the processes detailed in the ‘Equivalence Procedure’. eToolLCD can be used to conduct the Materials lifecycle impact measurement and reduction credit (RSO-6) within an applicable IS Rating submission.
eTool Product Team produced the Alignment Report and the ISC Equivalence Procedure which were reviewed and validated by the ISC Technical Advisors to ensure a robust comparison at an asset and material level (GWP and EnviroPoints) as well as functionality aspects.
eToolLCD provides additional processes enabling users to model and optioneer with greater accuracy and explore more low impact design options. eToolLCD was recognised for having a rich feature set to speed up the modelling process and allow integration with BIM / LCC.

This is very exciting because now ISC projects in Australia can complete an LCA and report on the RSO-6 credit and it’s a great time saving bonus to have.

 

If you are working on a ISC project, check this Guidance out and learn how to conduct an LCA for RSO-6 credit in eToolLCD.

 

Access free eToolLCD infrastructure training HERE.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We are here for you.

 

Top 10 LCA modelling tips for eToolLCD users for the New ‘Green Star Buildings’ rating

New Green Star Buildings rating was launched in 2020. It is exciting to see the transition in Australia towards more sustainable buildings and stricter carbon reduction targets within the new GBCA rating scheme.

During the webinar (watch our webinar here) we explained in detail which credits of the new rating can be tackled with the software eToolLCD. You can find our support article that talks about credits here:

  • Credit 21 – Upfront Carbon Emissions (up to 6 points)
  • Credit 24 – Other Carbon Emissions (up to 4 points)
  • Credit 26 – Life Cycle Impacts (up to 2 points)

Top 10 tips for eToolLCD users:

  1. Learn to extract data for credits 21, 24 and 26 from the same LCA model
  2. Credit 21: Use ‘Demolition’ templates from eTool’s library to estimate Demolition works for Credit 21 (Webinar minute 27:00)
  3. Credit 21: Be aware of different requirements for accounting for carbon sequestration when using timber products from scope A1-A5 and from scope A-D (Webinar minute 19:40)
  4. Credit 21: Unleash more options to reduce Upfront Carbon from optimising Transport (A4) or Construction processes (A5) (Webinar minute 24:00)
  5. Credit 21: Try different EPDs to get a better Upfront Carbon reduction
  6. Credit 24: Use LCA model to Optimise Credit 24 and emissions from refrigerant gases and other emissions (Webinar minute 29:50)
  7. Credit 24: Optimise other emissions from module B (Webinar minute 32:40)
  8. Credit 26: Explaining how to conduct an LCA for the new rating (Webinar minute 37:10)
  9. Credit 26: Use eToolLCD decarbonisation grid scenario 2050 (40:20)
  10. To automate data import from eTool into GBCA calculators, please vote on this feature request. We have many feature requests and have to prioritise. 🙂 The rule is that when it gets 20 votes, we will start working on it. Hurry up so it’s implemented sooner.

 

We look forward to hearing from you. If you are working on a Green Star Buildings project, let us know if you wish to discuss with us or need any help.

LCA in Sustainable Infrastructure

This article provides an insight into the latest sustainability policies and regulations that have integrated the Life Cycle Design approach. Continue reading

NCC 2022 and NatHERS Star Ratings – eTool Position Statement

NCC 2022 are proposing some dramatic improvements in residential energy use. This is, in principal a fantastic development and one that eTool very much supports. We do however feel that mandating 7 star NatHERS performance carries some risk and isn’t the most effective deployment of available capital for rapid decarbonisation. The reason is simple, there is much lower hanging fruit available in areas not covered by the NCC proposed changes.  It’s also highly likely that the 7 Star requirements will lead to net-negative outcomes for the planet.

See below examples of the life cycle impacts (Global Warming Potential) of three detached residential buildings designs in each capitol city (averaged) selected because of their ubiquity (the homes selected are very standard display home products), plus an overall national population weighted average. Due to their relatively large size (and hence large thermal loads in comparison to other impacts) they represent a somewhat “best case” scenario of what improving thermal performance can achieve. The charts below indicate that moving from 6 to 7 stars doesn’t significantly move the needle on life cycle global warming impacts.  Although moving from 6 to 7 stars delivers a 25% (average) saving in heating and cooling energy requirements, it only results in an average 2% reduction in life cycle impacts.

Life Cycle Impacts of 7 Star NatHERS NCC 2022

While this change could make sense for particularly hot or particularly cold climates, such as Darwin, Hobart and Canberra, it makes significantly less sense for the more temperate areas of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.  So, the question is, can Australian new home buyers get better bang for buck elsewhere?  The “Other Impacts” are broad (see below for a breakdown for the population weighted average example), but the two largest categories are outside of the proposed scope for NCC 2022.  So, while eTool are supportive of improved thermal performance of buildings, we also see inherent risk associated with targeting this strategy in isolation.  That is because, for homes to “rate” 7 stars in many temperature climates they require a lot of thermal mass (e.g. brick and concrete), so what the 2022 NCC may end up doing is discouraging the use of low carbon materials such as timber in preference of brick and concrete for thermal mass.  This will in turn result in higher life cycle material impacts and ultimately higher net impacts, working against the intended goals of the amendments (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions).

Likewise, plug loads are another area – currently outside the NCC – that requires attention.  Solar PV most certainly should play a role in reducing the impacts of the building, energy monitoring, and possibly other policy levers the government can pull to improve the energy efficiency of appliances.  There’s other easy wins that should be addressed, higher efficiency HVAC, lower GWP refrigerant gases are good examples.  Ultimately, life cycle assessment should be the cornerstone of any policy for reducing the environmental impacts of Australian residential and commercial buildings.

Life Cycle Impacts Australian Residence

 

 

 

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).

Capture2

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.

 

 

References:

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?

 

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eTool To Provide Life Cycle Assessment software to HS2

eTool have been engaged by HS2 to provide our market leading life cycle design software eToolLCD.

HS2 is Europe’s largest infrastructure project, designed to increase capacity on the UK’s railways and improve connectivity between eight out of 10 of Britain’s biggest cities, creating thousands of jobs and rebalancing our economy. It will run between London and Birmingham from 2026, extend to Crewe by 2027 and then link to Manchester and Leeds from 2033 with HS2 trains continuing to cities including Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

In order to measure, reduce and report on carbon emissions, materials efficiency and wider embedded environmental impacts, HS2 have adopted a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach. This modelling will include impact analysis across all life cycle stages from the extraction of raw materials through to processing, transport, use and disposal.  Using eToolLCD, the modelling will be conducted in accordance with applicable standards including BS EN ISO 14040, BS EN ISO 14044, BS EN 159783 and PAS 2080. The LCA modelling results will also be used to demonstrate achievement of credits within BREEAM Infrastructure.

eToolLCD was awarded its contract with HS2 after a thorough tendering process.  eTool also look forward to developing the eToolLCD further to complement HS2’s bespoke requirements, such as evaluating their innovative materials efficiency metric.

The tool will initially be used to develop baseline, against which design options can be assessed.  As the design progresses, HS2 subcontractors will take on LCA modelling tasks to further develop the models and identify further opportunities for improving the life cycle performance.  Through using eToolLCD’s unique enterprise functionality, multiple users can review and collaborate effectively on large complex LCA models, a feature that will enable this sequential and collaborative assessment.

How to complete an LCA for BREEAM 2018

life cycle design

From specific products to whole project analysis, LCA is taking off globally to help project teams quantify and improve environmental performance to meet global and national impact reduction targets.  BREEAM have recognised this and the new updates to BREEAM 2018 place a heavy emphasis on the LCA approach.

  • 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”

Understandably this is a big step change for many design teams used to the traditional Green Guide approach.  However, significant changes are enabling LCA to become common practice for designers, including:

  • newly available life cycle data,
  • user-friendly and cost-effective software platforms,
  • collaborative development of international standards and increased transparency,
  • integration with Life Cycle Costing for economic and environmental accounting
  • LCA legislation in planning policies, EIA and government incentives,
  • increasing uptake in academic research and universities curriculum
  • professional leadership and technical know-how;

The heavy weighting of credits for Stage 2 analysis encourages design teams to consider the life cycle impacts of their buildings at early design stages. (BREEAM require evidence for this to be submitted pre-planning). Applied at project concept stage, LCA provides insight and huge opportunities for life cycle environmental and cost improvements. Performance targets can be set during project preparation and brief, “what if” scenarios are used to assist design development and a detailed report will consolidate results according to project specifications. This “disruptive” practice in sustainable design will hopefully unlock the further potential to decarbonise buildings and infrastructure.

How an integrated design process for BREEAM 2018 works?

Riba graphic

 

LCA Stage 2: Often there will be limited information available at pre-planning and a limited appetite for spending money on LCA.  This is where eTools powerful template system comes into its own.  Our whole building LCA templates allow for quick, rough and ready LCA analysis.  With only basic information the template will fill the gaps using industry average defaults, this can be analysed for hotspots and design options and updated with project specifics as the design progresses through to Stage 4.

Benchmarking:  Although the benchmarking credits do not need to be submitted until Stage 4 the benchmarking report is fully automated from eTool.  So the number of likely benchmarking credits can be analysed early on and design options can be prioritised based on what provides the greatest uplift.

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. Simply ensure you report the same options in your LCA submission as you do in your LCC reporting.

Substructure and Landscaping:  Our templates system covers all of these elements and they can be added to the model with basic information (eg depth and width of piles or area of macadam road).

Services: Services require a separate model because the Bre IMPACT data cannot currently be used to model services.  More information here.

3rd Party:  Our certification service is provided to all users projects completed commercially as part of our standard software offering. During the certification process, a senior eTool LCA practitioner is made available to the project and will undertake all quality checks defined in BREEAM.

For further detail on how to run reports for Breeam 2018 from eTool please see our support video here.

To continue supporting this process, eTool have released the eToolLCD Enterprise subscription. Embedding LCA at an organisation level has become easier and will provide added value with centralised ownership of LCA models, inter-company collaboration for integrated design and an unrestricted number of read-only users. 

Designers that have increased demand for LCA services can choose the new Specialist subscription to work on an unlimited number of projects with a fixed software cost.

We are working hard to continue bringing innovative solutions and we are improving eTooLCD with additional life cycle inventories, enhanced Life Cycle Costing functionality and many others that you can check out by creating your account at eToolLCD.

eTool have produced a number of different articles on integrated design using LCA including latest materials comparison, reporting efficiency and additional revenue by selling LCA services. Help us by sharing with friends and colleagues.

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New eToolLCD Pricing

eToolLCD subscription prices have been recently updated. Please read on for more info.

Why have we updated pricing?
For a few reasons. We have noticed a strong trend where our subscribers are each (on average) conducting more LCAs per year. We wanted to ensure our pricing remained competitive and predictable so have added some plans that reduce the per project fees. For example, the new specialist subscription has no per-project fees and the new enterprise pricing gives a 40% discount on per-project fees. In addition we wanted to simplify our offering and hence dropped our “Freelancer” plan.

How can users benefit upgrading to new plans?
As well as reduced per-project fees the new Enterprise subscription and the updated Specialist subscription include new functionality with improved collaboration, reporting, user admin/management and the soon to be released Revit Plugin. Consultant subscribers will also enjoy additional Life Cycle Cost functionality, and automated BREEAM 2018 reporting that’s coming out soon. All round eToolLCD is getting better for users, and watch this space, more to come!

Why the US Dollar pricing?
The use of eToolLCD is expanding globally and some of our users provided feedback that the Aussie $ pricing was a unusual. So we’ve now set our pricing in a currency that everybody recognises.

How will this affect existing subscribers?
eTool is “grandfathering” existing eToolLCD subscriptions so you won’t lose any functionality or have to pay any more or less until June 30th 2019 when we’ll ask existing subscribers to migrate to one of the new plans. Please note, if your subscription lapses you’ll need to transition to a new plan.

Who is the new Enterprise Plan for?
Organisations that have a number of consultants using eToolLCD, or developers and builders who want to track the performance of their portfolio is projects. We have a range of features for this plan that will make Life Cycle Design very easy, scaleable and transparent for these businesses. Please get in touch if you’d like more info.

Create an account or access eToolLCD.

Related articles:

How to ingrain LCA to your design process

How to Price Construction Life Cycle Assessment Services