Portfolio Environmental Management

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.

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.

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. As a result, we are seeing more organisations making zero carbon commitments and restructuring their business model and operations to hit their reduction targets.

eTool Business Develoment Manager Maryia Perthen explains that “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 is a great example and they have recently started using the software”.

In the real estate market in particular, the use of Life Cycle Analysis (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. 

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. . 

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.

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:

  • Modeling 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.

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.

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 purpose (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. 

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

 

 

 

LCA and UKGBC Net-Zero Framework

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

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

ukgbc net zero

Figure1: UKGBC Net Zero Carbon definition (April 2019)

 

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

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

 

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

Figure 2: Scope of Carbon Assessments

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

Results

Figure 3: Typical medium density low rise office building 

 

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

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

Strategies

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

 

eToolLCD’s Unique Template System

One of the defining features of eToolLCD is our unique template system.  Our ever growing library contains 1000’s of construction templates applicable to all kinds of building and infrastructure projects being built across the globe. The template approach ensures:

  • Repeatable results and consistancy
  • More consistent, accurate and comparable assessments
  • Geographically more relevant
  • Continual improvement in accuracy
  • A deeper understanding of construction make-ups and hotspots

Templates can contain high levels of detail, inputs and assumptions, work that is not only fully referenced and transparent but shared across the entire eTool community to utilise, adapt and improve on

You will almost always find a template that matches or is close to matching your specifications however, the templates are fully adaptible, users can clone and adjust templates to make the required updates.  These can then get added to the library for the rest of the eTool community to use so, every project gets completed in eToolLCD makes LCA quicker and easier for the next project!

Each template will include any number of materials, people and equipment entries with each individual entry having pre-selected LCA variables.

These are combined into complex whole make-ups such as the below, curtain walling insulated spandral panel:

Caurtain Walling

The user inputs the area of the panel in their project and the tempalte system autoamtically calculates the capping, mullions, transoms, fixing brackets, framing, glazing and insulation based on the proportions used to build the original tempalte.

So, users simply need to match their construction specification to the corresponding template and populate the approriate areas/quantities. This means that complex LCA models containing 100s of material entries can be built quickly from only a small number of basic inputs (floor area, wall area, roof area etc).

Hear what some of our users say about our template system.

“eToolLCDs prebuilt templates made it relatively easy to build up the baseline LCA model and then quickly compare different design options”

Ben Carr, AECOM

“The software works well, and the predefined templates that are selected to describe each building element align well to the architectural specifications.”

Anthony, ADW Developments

“The template approach to etooLCD software means that the initial process of formulating a baseline model is relatively quick, so time can be focussed on assessing options and recommendations.”

Peter, CHB Sustainability

For a detailed demonstration of our template system check out this video from our support pages.

 

 

Related Posts:
Creating Templates
Automated Reporting

eToolLCD Automated Report Branding

eTools automated reporting allows users to quickly produce high-quality reports from their models without the need to adjust and edit in word.  Having produced many early LCA reports manually in the early days we understand the frustrations that arise from copying into spreadsheets, word reports, formatting, finding errors and re-working.  We highlighted this is a big drain on resources that would be much better spent improving the actual quality of the modelling, recommendations and engaging design feedback. You can read more and see examples of our growing suite of automated reports here.

We also understand that users have their own branding and like to put their stamp on reports issued to clients.  Our reports can be downloaded in either word, pdf or excel formats allowing users to make edits and format as they wish.

For Specialist subscribers users we have introduced branding of reports, from a users profile they can upload their logo.

company logo

 

The logo then feeds through to the title page and header of the reports run from the users’ models.

report example logo

 

Freeing up your time to focus on the really interesting parts of your LCA studies!!

 

Related Posts: Setting Up Your Profile, Automated Reporting

eToolLCD Certification Service

Background

Ever since the early days of eTool we highlighted one of the risks to widespread LCA adoption is the varying levels of quality in building LCA models and subsequent loss in confidence of the results and conclusions drawn.  To mitigate this we have ingrained a formal certification process provided inclusive within your subscription/project access fees.  During the certification process, a senior eTool LCA practitioner is made available to your project for the purposes of:

  • Assisting the LCA team with completing the study in compliance with relevant standards (we have now completed over 400 projects for BREEAM, LEED and Green Star so will ensure the model is completed to the correct requirements and no hold ups occur during the BREEAM/LEED/Gren Star verification).
  • Providing credit for “3rd party verification” under BREEAM 2018.
  • Reducing the risk to your clients and elevating the professionalism of your service by peer-reviewing your LCA study to ISO 14040 and ISO14044 standards.
  • Assisting the LCA team with challenging concepts or modelling requirements.
  • Improving the LCA teams efficiency in completing LCA/LCCs using eToolLCD.
  • Providing the LCA team with potential strategies that may be worth considering to reduce the impact of the design.

The certifier will be “suitably qualified” to undertake peer reviews having as a minimum:

  • Completed at least 3 paid for LCAs within the last 2 years
  • eToolLCD advanced training course
  • Experience or qualifications in interpreting construction documentation

The certification system ensures that consistent, high-quality LCA studies are produced from the eToolLCD software. This lends further credibility to your work when clients see the eTool brand on your reports.

The certification is provided for up to 6 designs within an eToolLCD Building or Infrastructure entity. These designs may be very early stage models, or later stage complete LCA/LCC models or a combination, typically:

  • Concept Design Stage Base Model
  • Concept Design Stage Improved Model(s) (including all options modelled for BREEAM)
  • Concept Design Stage Final Model
  • Technical Design Stage Base Model
  • Technical Design Stage Improved Model(s) (including all options modelled for BREEAM)
  • Technical Design Stage Final Model

eTool understand that good LCA/LCC modelling is an iterative process and will be on-hand from the outset to provide assistance and answer any questions surrounding the modelling and certification.

Certification

Process:
1. eToolLCD user submits initial model/s for review
2. eTool staff complete QA / QC Checks on eToolLCD model/s and provides feedback
3. eToolLCD user complete / update eToolLCD model/s
4. eToolLCD user submit final model/s for certification
5. eTool staff completes certification (and clones model to BRE account if required)

Inclusions:
– An independent review of the eToolLCD designs (6 or less) conducted by a competent LCA practitioner commenting where applicable against each project, structure and model quality checks. As a minimum, the following is reviewed:

– In addition to ISO14040 and ISO 14044 quality checks the certifier will also review the following for both baseline models and optioneering models, in line with BREEAM 2018 requirements

  • Material quantities are within +-10% of those shown in design documentation (both concept and technical design stage models)
  • Where default figures for product service life, transport distance and construction waste have been adapted from generic material default values, there is adequate justificationa dn references.
  • Adhesives are inlcuded if cover more than 20% of materials surface
  • Study period of 60 years

Deliverables:
– eToolLCD Certifier Review Statement documenting checks made, comments and user responses using the certification checklist. See example report here.

– Phone/email/weblink support throughout the process

For further information see eTool terms and conditions

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.

 

 

eToolLCD Environmental Indicators

Whilst undoubtedly climate change currently remains the greatest environmental challenge of our time and our recommendations will focus on this, there are many other environmental indicators that can be measured in eToolLCD. Interestingly many are also heavily impacted by the burning of fossil fuels therefore, quite often a reduction in CO2e can often also lead to a reduction in many other indicators. A summary of some of those currently measured in eTool can be found below.

Global Warming Potential. Anthropogenic global warming is caused by an increase of greenhouse gasses (GHG) in the earth’s atmosphere. These gasses reflect some of the heat radiated from the earth’s surface that would normally escape into space back to the surface of the earth. Over time this warms the earth. Common GHGs include CO2, N2O, CH4 and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Global Warming Potential (GWP) is expressed in equivalent GHGs released, usually in kgCO2e.

Embodied Energy. Embodied Energy (EE) is a measure of the primary energy content of non-renewable energy sources including the energy required to extract, process and deliver the non-renewable fuels, or manufacture, transport and install and maintain a renewable generator (hence there is usually and non-renewable energy content associated with renewable energy sources also).

Water Footprint. The pressure on global freshwater resources arises from the demand for everyday goods and services which use water in their production. The interconnected nature of global economic systems means that water abstraction can occur far from where final consumption occurs. Managing water resources is extremely important for the health of the environment and our current and future agricultural, industrial and personal water requirements. Freshwater can be derived from renewable sources (rainwater) and somewhat non-renewable resources (aquifers). The water footprint indicator distinguishes from these sources and provides an understanding of the depletion of fresh water sources, in particular from non-renewable resources.

Land Use Land transformation and use causes biodiversity loss. The main cause of the loss of biodiversity can be attributed to the influence of human beings on the world biosphere. Biological diversity is the resource upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend. There is a general acceptance that the term biodiversity encompasses diversity numerous levels, for example genetic level, populations/species level, communities/ecosystems level and regional landscapes level). Unfortunately, there are currently no methods which allow for simultaneous measurement of all levels of biodiversity. There have been numerous attempts to integrate direct and indirect land use in LCA and its impact on biodiversity but none of the proposed metrics are fully operational or applied globally.

Ozone Depletion Ozone is formed and depleted naturally in the earth’s stratosphere (between 15-40 km above the earth’s surface). Halocarbon compounds are persistent synthetic halogen-containing organic molecules that can reach the stratosphere leading to more rapid depletion of the ozone. As the ozone in the stratosphere is reduced more of the ultraviolet rays in sunlight can reach the earth’s surface where they can cause skin cancer and reduced crop yields. Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) is expressed in equivalent ozone depleting gasses (normally kgCFC11e).

Acidification Potential. Acidification is a consequence of acids (and other compounds which can be transformed into acids) being emitted to the atmosphere and subsequently deposited in surface soils and water. Increased acidity can result in negative consequences for flora and fauna in addition to increased corrosion of manmade structures (buildings vehicles etc.). Acidification Potential (AP) is an indicator of such damage and is usually measured in kgCO2e.

Human Toxicity Potential Human results from persistent chemicals reaching undesirable concentrations in each of the three elements of the environment (air soil and water). This leads to damage to humans, animals and eco-systems. The modelling of toxicity in LCA is complicated by the complex chemicals involved and their potential interactions. Human Toxicity Potential (HTP) takes account of releases of materials toxic to humans in three distinct media being air, water and soil. The toxicological factors are calculated using scientific estimates for the acceptable daily intake or tolerable daily intake of the toxic substances. The toxicological factors are still at an early stage of development so that HTP can only be taken as an indication and not as an absolute measure of the toxicity potential. In this case, the indicator is measured in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY).

Eutrophication Potential Over-enrichment of aquatic ecosystems with nutrients leading to increased production of plankton, algae and higher aquatic plants leading to a deterioration of the water quality and a reduction in the value and/or the utilisation of the aquatic ecosystem. Eutrophication is primarily caused by surplus nitrogen and phosphorus. Sources of nutrients include agriculture (fertilisers and manure), aquaculture, municipal wastewater, and nitrogen oxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion. It is measured in terms of kg of phosphate equivalents kg PO4eq.

Abiotic Resource Depletion Minerals And Energy. A combination of both Mineral and Fossil Fuel Abiotic resource depletion. This is a measure of the burden today’s society is placing on future generations by depleting available resources.

POCP Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (POCP), commonly known as smog, is toxic to humans in high concentration. Although ozone is protective in the stratosphere at low levels it is problematic from both a health and nuisance perspective. Plant growth is also effected through damaged leaf surfaces and reduced photosynthesis. POCP is formed when sunlight and heat react with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). POCP is measured in kg ethylene.

Ionizing Radiation. Ionizing Radiation (IR) characterises impacts from the release of radioactive species (radionuclides) to air and water. The species most commonly accounted for are the radionuclides of caesium, iodine, radon and uranium etc. Anthropogenic sources are the nuclear fuel cycle, phosphate rock extraction, coal power plants, and oil and gas extraction. When released to the environment, they can impact both human health and ecosystems so the end_point areas of protection they relate to are human health and the ecosystem quality.

Marine Aquatic Ecotoxicity. The potential effect of toxic releases and exposure on marine environments.

Terrestrial Aquatic Ecotoxicity The potential effect of toxic releases and exposure on terrestrial (land-based) environments.

Ecotoxicity. The potential effect of toxic releases and exposure on environments.

Particulate Matter. Particulate Matter (PM) or respiratory inorganics cause health issues in high concentrations. PM concentrations vary widely around the world. The main contributors are industrial operations and power generation. However, PM emissions from vehicle exhaust can contribute significantly to health damages because they are emitted in high-density areas and at low elevation. Secondary aerosol precursor emissions in many areas are due to vehicle exhaust and domestic wood heaters. Ammonia emissions from agriculture are also a major contributor to secondary PM. They are measured in kgPM2.5

Water Consumption. The pressure on global freshwater resources arises from the demand for everyday goods and services which use water in their production. The interconnected nature of global economic systems means that water abstraction can occur far from where final consumption occurs. Globally, water use has been increasing at more than twice the rate of population growth, and most withdrawals are in watersheds already experiencing water stress. Managing water resources is extremely important for the health of the environment and our current and future agricultural, industrial and personal water requirements. Freshwater can be derived from renewable sources (rainwater) and somewhat non-renewable resources (aquifers). Consumptive water (H2O C) use is abstracted water that is no longer available for other uses because it has evaporated, transpired, been incorporated into products and crops, or consumed by man or livestock.

Abiotic Resource Depletion Minerals. Abiotic Resource Depletion of energy (ADPM) is a measure of the extraction and consumption of primary resources from the earth. Such exploitation reduces resources available to future generations and as such must be managed.

Human Toxicity Cancer. Life cycle impact assessment of toxicity takes into account the fate, route of exposure and toxicity impact of toxic substances when released to air, water or land. Categories of chemical substances commonly accounted for are pesticides, heavy metals, hormones and organic chemicals. Human toxicity, cancer measures the potential for toxic releases or exposure to cause cancer in humans.

Human Toxicity Non-Cancer. Life cycle impact assessment of toxicity takes into account the fate, route of exposure and toxicity impact of toxic substances when released to air, water or land. Categories of chemical substances commonly accounted for are pesticides, heavy metals, hormones and organic chemicals. Human toxicity, cancer measures the potential for toxic releases or exposure to cause cancer in humans.

Freshwater Ecotoxicity. Life cycle impact assessment of toxicity takes into account the fate, route of exposure and toxicity impact of toxic substances when released to air, water or land. Categories of chemical substances commonly accounted for are pesticides, heavy metals, hormones and organic chemicals. Human toxicity, non-cancer measures the potential for toxic releases or exposure to cause damage to freshwater environments.

Water Scarcity. The pressure on global freshwater resources arises from the demand for everyday goods and services which use water in their production. The interconnected nature of global economic systems means that water abstraction can occur far from where final consumption occurs. Managing water resources is extremely important for the health of the environment and our current and future agricultural, industrial and personal water requirements. Freshwater can be derived from renewable sources (rainwater) and somewhat non-renewable resources (aquifers). The water scarcity indicator (H2O S) expands on the water footprint indicator by not only distinguishing from these sources and providing an understanding of the depletion of fresh water sources but also relating this depletion to scarcity in the freshwater supply in the local region.

Ionizing Radiation. Ionizing radiation characterises impacts from the release of radioactive species (radionuclides) to air and water. The species most commonly accounted for are the radionuclides of caesium, iodine, radon and uranium etc. Anthropogenic sources are the nuclear fuel cycle, phosphate rock extraction, coal power plants, and oil and gas extraction. When released to the environment, they can impact both human health and ecosystems so the end_point areas of protection they relate to are human health and the ecosystem quality.

Abiotic Resource Depletion Energy. Abiotic Resource Depletion of energy (ARDE) is a measure of the extraction and consumption of non-renewable energy sources (primarily fossil fuels, but also inclusive of other energy sources such as uranium). Primary energy content of non-renewable energy sources including the embodied energy to extract, process and deliver the non-renewable fuels, or manufacture, transport and install the renewable generator. Hence there is usually and non-renewable energy content associated with renewable fuels also.

BRE Ecopoints.  A single metric score that weights the various environmental indicators covered in Bre IMPACT according to their environmental significance.

The diagram below presents some of the damage pathways (environmental, human, resource) that the indicators impact on.

ReCiPe2016-impact-categories

(Courtesy of Simapro)

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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