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

Eiffage Kier and eToolLCD PAS2080 Audit

As part of their ongoing quality management process, HS2 joint venture Effiage Kier (EK) contracted Lloyd’s  Register Quality Assurance (LRQA) to undertake a PAS2080 audit on their GHG reporting, processes, systems and tools.  For the past year EK have been using eToolLCD to model, baseline and improve the whole life carbon of their respective HS2 assets. 

PAS 2080 is an environmental protection standard for carbon management in infrastructure and includes requirements for effective governance and leadership, quantification of greenhouse gas emissions, target setting, reporting, information management and continual improvement. 

The PAS promotes reduced carbon, reduced cost infrastructure delivery, more collaborative ways of working and a culture of challenge in the infrastructure value chain through which innovation can be fostered. It includes requirements for all value chain members to show the right leadership and to establish effective governance systems for reducing whole life carbon through the use of a detailed carbon management process. “

(PAS2080:2016)

The overall structure of GHG reporting within PAS2080 largely follows the modular approach defined in EN15978 – the European standard on how to measure the environmental performance of buildings.

Capture

Capture

The PAS2080 audit demonstrates EKs ability to quantify, compare and improve the life cycle environmental impacts of their infrastructure projects.

Spanning several months, LRQA undertook a rigorous technical review process that goes beyond PAS2080 and also incorporates ISO14064-3 Specification with guidance for validation and verification of greenhouse gas statements.  Both EKs systems for data gathering and aggregation as well as eToolLCD modelling software have been extensively assessed against LRQA requirements, including the following:

  • Gap analysis
  • Design team collaboration
  • Management systems and policies
  • Internal quality assurance
  • Database reliability
  • Calculation methodologies
  • Testing procedures

This can be a daunting process however the transparency of the systems and procedures in place at both EK and eTool has provided effective documentation to satisfy the LRQA audit. The following eTool policies and procedures were interrogated with particular detail.

  • eTool quality management policy
  • eTools data validation processes
  • eToolLCD Regression Testing Methodology and Practices
  • eToolLCD Error Handling
  • Cybersecurity incident response plan
  • Data Breach Response Plan
  • eToolLCD Patterns and Practices
  • eToolLCD Development and Deployment Procedure
  • Software Delivery Methods
  • Disaster recovery plan

Another big part of effective LCA reporting is multidisciplinary collaboration (eTools Enterprise feature is perfectly set up for effective LCA collaboration). A good LCA will involve input from a wide range of expertise including change estimators, planners, designers and operation managers.    Further opportunities have been presented for EK, eTool and our stakeholders to learn and continually improve the quality of our LCA modelling and reporting.

“PAS2080 accreditation is at the forefront of innovative verification schemes. Early in 2018, Eiffage Kier subscribed to eToolLCD software to help facilitate carbon quantification and management in a full Life Cycle Assessment. Having eToolLCD not only achieves significant BREEAM credits but has helped Eiffage Kier achieve PAS2080 verification as a designer working on HS2, Britain’s largest infrastructure project.

Using eToolLCD’s user friendly software, we have produced a variety of carbon assessments – ranging from full, contract-wide baselines to smaller carbon quantification – in asset balanced scorecards for different design methods. This has helped save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide, in turn helping EiffageKier move towards a 50% reduction in embodied carbon.

eTool’s proactive approach to responding to LCA queries from the Eiffage Kier team has helped deliver a compliant life cycle assessment report in line with various standards including PAS2080. eTool’s in house assurance on published life cycle assessments has also been important to the success of Eiffage Kier’s verification of PAS2080 and life cycle assessments. The output from our partnership has been instrumental in providing our stakeholders with confidence in both our methods and our data.”

Matthew Pygott – Carbon Assessment Engineer

Eiffage Kier JV, HS2 Team

 

For further information on PAS2080, the audit or if you are working on infrastructure projects and looking to further understand their CO2e impacts please contact info@etoolglobal.com

 

 

Materials Efficiency Metrics

Thanks to our work with HS2 we have recently added a number of new indicators to help measure materials efficiency.

  • Mass of non-renewable primary material (t eq) – virgin materials not including timber
  • Mass of non-renewable secondary materials (t eq) –  all recycled materials currently largely metals
  • Mass of renewable primary material (t eq) – timber and organic products that can be continually renewed
  • Mass of reused non-renewable materials (t eq) – quantifies directly re-used materials, in the LCA these would only have transport impacts
  • Mass of reused renewable materials (t eq) – such as re-used timber
  • Materials Efficiency Metric – HS2 KPI combining the above

These new indicators will help users understand where the hotspots are and greatest improvement opportunities for material consumption, waste, recycling and circular economy.  Please see here for further detail on how circular economy can link with LCA.

Are we running out of building materials?

Materials stock

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links between LCA and the Circular Economy

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

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

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

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

LCA circle graphic

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

Quantifying Benefits

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

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

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

Recycled Aggregate

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

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

Module D

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

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

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

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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.