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

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)

eTool International Residential Benchmark (Methodology Summary)

Below is a summary of our approach to the International residential benchmark.  A full EN15978 report on the benchmark model can be found here.  International Residential Benchmark Weighted x10 dwellings v28

In light of eTool’s recent exploration into global markets, we thought it prudent to create a “global” benchmark for housing developments.  eTool will be using this benchmark for all future housing projects. The reasons an international statistically mixed use benchmark is the most robust model to compare designs against are as follows:

  • The planet does not care what kind of house you build only how close it is to zero carbon. A mixed use benchmark provides a fair comparison of performance across different house types be it apartments, detached, maisonettes etc.
  • The planet does not care where you build your building, only how close it gets to zero carbon. Climate change is a global problem, whilst regional benchmarks can be useful for comparing similar buildings in the same area they can produce unfair results.  For example, a house built in a low carbon grid area (e.g. Brazil) may have emissions of 2 ton/person/year.  This may only be a small improvement against the average Brazil house as they both have the benefit of a low carbon grid.  Conversely a building in WA may have higher emissions (say 3 ton/person/year)  but despite having higher emissions than the Brazil case could show a larger improvement against the average WA house.  A single benchmark is the only way to give correct credit for the true sustainability performance of a building.

Before getting into the nitty gritty, it’s important to understand the purpose of the eTool benchmark, which is:

  • To establish a common measuring stick against which all projects are assessed so that any project can be comparable to another.
  • To create a starting point, or “average, business as usual case” from which to measure improvements.

Benchmark Form and Structure

The benchmark has been created to represent an average dwelling built in a developed country, the statistics for a range of developed countries have been population weighted and combined into a single theoretical average dwelling.

Capture2

The statistics used in the benchmark are based on data obtained for each country. The construction type and dwelling size statistics take new build data wherever available, as this data is generally reliable and represents a picture of the way buildings are currently being built across the developed world. For residential buildings there is a mix of houses and apartments. This is the latest breakdown of the new dwellings density mix across the countries considered in 2010:

Capture

The occupancy is calculated by dividing teh countries population by the number of dwellings to give an average. This is weighted by population to give a global average of 2.52.
For the single dwelling element (59% of our average dwelling) a building structure has been modelled taking a cross section of commonly used construction techniques. In this instance, the data was obtained for U.S.A.  The U.S.A makes up the largest proportion of new housing in the developed world and is considered to represent a fair “average house.”  Construction techniques are unlikely to differ significantly enough to impact on the overall modelling, whilst brick houses may be more common in the U.K. and Germany, timber framing is far more prevalent in Japan and Sweden.

Capture4

A similar approach was taken with windows, internal walls, floors and roofs. The vast majority of those installed in new builds across America and Europe are double glazed and allowances have also been made for the smaller proportions of other window framing options currently in common use.

Capture5

For the multi-family dwellings, a standard concrete frame structure has been taken with one level of car parking and typical auxiliary and common layouts, such that the apartment living area represents approximately 50% of the total floor area of the building.  The total impacts of this building have been weighted on a per m2 basis and 56 m2 has been added to the model to represent the apartment element.

Benchmark Operational

Existing data has been used for operational energy, and arguably new build data would be preferable, but total existing data is generally a lot more robust (and readily available). Whilst new build energy figures were available for some countries, the figures tend to be from modelling completed for regulatory purposes and are therefore theoretical. In many countries there is a perceived “performance gap” between modelling results and actual consumption mainly due to differences in occupant behaviour, but also because of limitations in software and methodologies used for the modelling. The hope is that there will be continued industry effort towards monitoring of new build housing performances. Until further data in this area is available, we have a robust snapshot of how average buildings are currently performing by taking existing housing data.

The data for total residential fuel consumption was divided by the total number of dwellings in each country analysed. This was then weighted according to population to give a final figure for the average energy consumption of a developed country dwelling.

Capture7

End-use percentage estimates were then used to determine where this energy is being used in the dwellings.  Again, U.S. data[ix] has been used to represent the average.

Capture

Other impacts such as appliances and cabinetry and finishes have also been included by the estimated proportion of dwellings estimated to include these.

Capture8
The global average water consumption is considered fairly consistent across most developed countries with America and Australia having higher water consumption due to larger garden sizes.  A conservative nominal 169l/person/day has been assumed for water supply and treatment.

 

[i] Populations by country 2010 http://countrymeters.info/en/United_States_of_America_(USA)

[ii] Characteristics of New Housing U.S.A http://www.census.gov/construction/chars/highlights.html

[iii] Statistics Bureau Japan http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/1431-09.htm

[iv] EU Odysee Data 2008 downloaded on 11.7.2014

[v] Australian Bureau of Statistics Average floor area of new residential dwellings 2012 http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/featurearticlesbytitle/E9AC8D4A1A3D8D20CA257C61000CE8D7?OpenDocument

[vi] U.S. Energy Information Administration – Annual Energy Outlook 2014 – Energy Consumption by Sector and Source http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/tablebrowser/#release=AEO2014&subject=0-AEO2014&table=2-AEO2014&region=1-0&cases=full2013full-d102312a,ref2014-d102413a

[vii] Odysee energy database for EU and Norway (2008) downloaded from http://www.odyssee-mure.eu/ in July 2014

[viii] Statistics Bureau Japan Chapter 10 Energy and Water http://www.stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan/1431-10.htm

[ix] U.S. Energy Information Administration Residential Sector Key Indicators and Consumption http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/tablebrowser/#release=AEO2014&subject=0-AEO2014&table=4-AEO2014&region=0-0&cases=full2013full-d102312a,ref2014-d102413a

 

 

eToolLCD Data Update

eToolLCD Data Update

A host of new materials have been added to eToolLCD recently to enable even more design flexibility. As well as the new data, existing materials and energy processes have been updated also to achieve greater data consistency and accuracy. All the datasets are now based on AusLCI and the Ecoinvent 2.2 background modified with AusLCI inputs. Most figures for Global Warming Potential (GWP) are consistent with the previous background data with the exception of some outliers, key examples are listed below:
  • Timber data now includes the sequestration of carbon dioxide during the growth phase (which is then re-released into the atmosphere in end of life scenarios)
  • Copper and brass now using improved processing assumptions, decrease in global warming potential, increase in most other indicators
  • Glass fibre insulation has increased due to improved process assumptions
  • Natural polished stone has increased quite dramatically due to mapping electricity inputs back to carbon intensive Australian electricity
  • ABS, Nylon and Expanded Polystyrene impacts have all increased for GWP due to an update in processes (incumbant data was as old as 1990)
  • ​The land use figures have also changed quite a bit due to accuracy improvements in background LCI processes
We are literally in the thick of this update as I write this so still unsure of the changes at a building level. Our educated guess at this stage is any significant use of timber in a building will lead to a much greater saving in GWP compared to the older database. This may also make the benchmarks slightly tougher for some types of buildings (e.g. Residential).

eTool LCA Software Updates – Autumn 2014

eTool LCA for Any Project

We conducted a retrospective LCA on the harbour bridge a while back, which highlighted how versatile eTool LCA was.  It was clunky though.  Whilst setting up the harbour bridge project we had to answer questions in the eTool LCA interface like “Number of bedrooms”.  We weren’t quite sure how we were going to solve this little quandary once and for all.  There seemed to be an unmanageably large number of different types of structures with potentially unique functional attributes.  For example, in the OmniClass classification there’s 748 different “Facility Types”.  When you also add all the possible iterations of mixed type facilities we really started scratching our heads.  Why?  Here’s a few reasons:

  • The result was bigger than the biggest number that excel could calculate (1.79 x 10308)
  • If we provided the software uses with a drop down to choose from this list, the drop down would extend past he bottom of your screen, through the Earth, out of our solar system, out of the milky way and through a bunch of other galaxies.
  • If you could navigate through that list of different functions at the speed of light, and the one you wanted happened to be half way down the list, it would take you longer than the time between the big bang and now
  • The amount of data stored in that list would take your computer about the same length of time to retrieve the list from the internet

Anyway, we knew we needed another method.  We needed an ability to not only choose from the list of facility types, but enable custom combinations of these facility types in the one design.  For example, a mixed development with residential, retail and commercial space.

This feature also started us on our journey of BIM integration.  Thus far we’ve drawn on COBIE as our categorisation standard, but in the future we hope to map this to other standards so users can report however they see fit.  The flexibility of eTool LCA just exploded (without the clunkiness, or waiting until the next big bang for your list of facility types to download).

eTool LCA for Infrastructure

In our new list of possible design functions we have infrastructure elements such as roads, rail, air ports, bridges, stadiums etc.  We even have applicable functional attributes that users can choose for the appropriate infrastructure.  For example, a road designer may choose to measure their impacts per:

  • passenger transported
  • tonne of freight transported
  • workload unit (one passenger or 100kg of freight)
  • unit area of pavement
  • unit length of the road

Hopefully this drives some serious though about what the function of that infrastructure is, and how the movement of passengers or freight may be better done with lower carbon alternatives such as rail!  After all this is one of the beauties of LCA.

eTool LCA for Energy Generators

Another neat example of facilities that can now be assessed with eTool LCA is electricity generators.  Fancy running an environmental life cycle assessment of a wind turbine verse solar PV verses coal fired plant?  Knock your socks off!  The functional unit you’ll probably be choosing here is impacts per life cycle kWh generated.

eTool LCA for Data Centres

A little left field, but how to you compare the sustainability of data centres?  Have a go in eTool LCA!  You can choose from the below functional units to ensure you’re making fair comparisons between different options:

  • Annual data stored
  • Life cycle data stored
  • Annual data transmitted
  • Life cycle data transmitted
  • Net usable area

What next for eTool LCA?

For those who are rushing to check out the above functionality, bare in mind this is hot off the press and we’re yet to develop a library of templates that support these new types of construction entities.  This will come though, especially with the template validation functionality that is already helping our library grow.

In the mean time, software features continue to roll on.  The two big projects we’re working on at the moment is BRE IMPACT compliance.  We’re excited about this as it’s a third party verification system specifically designed for what eTool LCA does – LCA of Construction Projects.  Not only is this a big indication of the mainstreaming of LCA, it’ll also be really nice to have an official seal of approval on the accuracy of eTool LCA.

The other big project is a push on reporting.  We’re introducing a whole heap of cool new reports aimed at users to generate promotional and marketing ideas for their improved buildings.  Is this core to LCA, absolutely now.  Is it important to ensure that environmentally sustainable buildings proliferate?  Absolutely.  We don’t have our pulse on this globally but we hazard to guess the biggest impediment to truly sustainable buildings in Australia is a total disinterest within the real estate industry.  And eTool LCA is will hopefully spark this interest a little more by providing agents with really useful info to help them sell better buildings.

Past that, refer to our product roadmap which (although partially implemented) gives a good idea of where we’re heading longer term.

eTool LCA Software Updates – Summer 2014

EN15978 Compliance

The last few months have been hectic for our software development team. We brought the software into line with the European standard EN15978 – Sustainability of construction works – Assessment of environmental performance of buildings – Calculation method.  We undertook so eTool could be used to gain innovation credits in Green Star projects.  For out international audience, this is a environmental rating scheme managed by the Green Building Council of Australia.

Technically the update was a big challenge, EN15978 a very comprehensive standard with quite strict rules regarding how the LCA calculations should be conducted.  It’s a piece of work we planned back in 2012, we did need that little commercial push to undertake the change, and the opportunity to utilise eTool LCA for Green Star projects provided this.  We are really happy that we managed to complete this piece of work.  We really think the planet has a lot to benefit from through this standard, and hopefully through the use of eTool LCA.  Here’s some reasons:

  • EN15978 was written by CEN technical committee 350 who are also developing other standards to meet there overall mandate of delivering standards to holistically assess the sustainability of construction works.  This is really exciting.  It effectively draws a line in the sand and gives really solid guidance on how we should be assessing the buildings.  It includes social, economic and environmental considerations for sustainability.
  • A good Life Cycle Assessment is without doubt the best way to measure and improve the environmental performance of something.  This has been recognised by CEN TC 350 who have relied on it nearly exclusively for the environmental assessment of buildings.
  • CEN TC 350 also developed a standard for the assessment of building products.  These will be used by the new ECO EPD framework being developed in Europe which will align most of the major EPD Program operators.  Now this is exciting.  Finally, we have an international system that reports truly comparable data for construction products.  It’s equivalent to nutrition labelling for building products (substituting health info with environmental info).

All this means the stars are nicely aligning for low impact buildings.  There’s a huge opportunity to cut through the greenwash if industry uptakes this approach.  One of the things we love about this approach is it actually enables policy makers to set budgets in order to ensure we hit sustainability goals.  I’ve written about this concept and how it might be approached here.

Software Speed Improvements

Users during the last 12 months would have noticed that at times, particularly for very big designs, the software laboured.  It was getting pretty frustrating for our ops team who were working more and more on complex LCA models for large projects.  We’d delayed tackling this problem because it required a massive re-write of the back end.  There’s nothing worse than spending two months labouring on a software improvement project, then delivering the result which looks exactly the same!  It was a very nice change though, to give you an idea of the performance improvement, we had a large test design that was taking the best part of four minutes to save, now it’s taking just two seconds.  The big driver for this was actually to enable more features to be introduced to eTool LCA that would have otherwise slowed it down further.  There’s more coming!

Record Recommendations

This is probably  my favourite new feature.  It makes the job if modelling and tracking improvement ideas very easy.  I can honestly say this has enabled our operations team to significantly increase the research time we can allocate to identifying more improvement ideas.  Less time doing little admin tasks like copying and pasting data between eTool and spreadsheets, and more time focusing on reducing the impacts of the design.  All users need to do now is hit record, model the improvements, hit stop and every change to an impact due to that improvement will be recorded at different life cycle stages of the building.  And it’s recorded for every indicator too, so you can see how much carbon you saved verses how much money you saved.   I love using this feature.  Check it out.

eTool LCA Software Updates – Spring 2013

eTool is always busy in the background updating the libraries available to users.  Lately we’ve ramped up the activities in a big with with some major updates to our libraries.  Even more exciting is that we’re improving the functionality of eTool with some big software development projects.  I thought I’d take some time to update you.

Library Updates

Earlier in the year we conducted a large LCA study on a cutting edge development in the UK, One Brighton.  The study was commissioned by Bio Regional who run the One Planet Living sustainable living framework.  We will be publishing the results of this study before the end of the year.  During the modelling we adapted a pretty cool approach to modelling the UK Benchmarks where we morphed a number of different density buildings, based on the new build mix, to create a weighted average density and size building.  Our previous approach to this was to pick the most popular density building and adjust it’s size and other characteristics appropriately.  We liked the new approach so have also applied that to Australia.  This was timely as the density mix in Australia is also changing pretty dramatically as we embrace higher density living, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne (Sydney is now building more apartments and semi-detached dwellings than detached).  The new residential benchmarks are loaded up into the eTool Library read to compare your project against.  We’re also working on some office building benchmarks also, and looking into community buildings.  Watch this space!

Out templates library is also undergoing a bit of an overhaul.  There’s more to come but essentially we’ve be consolidating the current templates library and adding new templates where needed.  This will be an eternally evolving project and we have some really cool ideas about how users can share templates that we’re mocking up at the moment with implementation in mind.

Our materials, transport, equipment and energy databases are about to get an overhaul to.  You may have heard the GBCA has introduced credits for LCA.  Some of the indicators they’ve chosen weren’t being tracked by eTool so we’re in the process of updating this data.  Some interim updates have been performed including updating electricity grid coefficients to match the latest NGERs figures in Australia, and updates to some water grid figures (notably Perth to account for the increasing reliance on desalination).

Software Updates

Some big projects are now underway to take the eTool software to the next level.  See our product road map to get an understanding of the long term goals.  The focus is on aligning eTool with relevant international standards (in particular EN15978).  In the process we’re also fixing bugs along the way and generally improving the user experience.  Recent or impending improvements are listed below.

Functionality

Improved speed for the app.  You may have noticed that working on large designs the app started to labour a bit, or a lot if you were working on really big designs.  We’ve cut the save / clone time down by 75% which although is a good start is just the tip of the iceberg, we’re aiming to get a 95% improvement in performance in speed through a project that is revolutionising the back end of eTool.  I won’t go into the details, I’ll just say it’s a big project but is going to pay big dividends to users.

We’ve also changed the UI a little. Projects will soon be listed more conveniently (most recent on the top of the list when you log in).  There’s a big expansion in functionality for documenting project recommendations and our reports are about to get some serious attention also.

Bug Fixes

A few pesky bugs have also been fixed:

  • All design details now clone properly
  • Custom template details now clone properly
  • Reports on a design can be seen by all users accessing that design
  • Updates to certificate calculations to include PV generation and limit overall rating when gold savings aren’t achieved in both embodied and operational categories