Breeam 2018 LCA Ramp-up!

The following represents eTools response to the revision of the Mat1 credit offering in Breeam (2018).  The comments are based on the Technical Manual SD5078, Breeam UK New Construction 2018, Consultation Draft, as well as general ongoing conversations with the Bre.

Credit Summary

  • Up to 2 credits available for completing an LCA using IMPACT.  Credits awarded depend on performance against the Bre benchmarks
  • Up to 4 further credits available for Superstructure options appraisals during RIBA stages 2 and 4
  • 1 credit available for substructure, landscaping options appraisal RIBA Stage 2
  • 1 exemplary credit available for services options appraisal during RIBA stage 2
  • 1 exemplary credit for alignment with LCC
  • 1 exemplary credit “3rd party verification”

Total – 7 materials credits plus 3 exemplary

Evidence required – LCA modelling results, Optioneering report demonstrating how the LCA has been integrated into the design and the design team responses at stages 2 and 4.

eTool’s Thoughts

General Approach

eTool are excited to see the progression of the LCA credits within Breeam. LCA is fast becoming a mainstream aspect of sustainability and is seen in the construction industry as the future of good environmental performance.  Embodied or capital carbon represents approximately 20% of total UK building emissions, LCA therefore will need to form a vital role in tackling climate change and meeting the Paris commitments. Within the industry land owners now recognise the importance of LCA and are requiring it to form part of the design process as do developers such as Land Securities and infrastructure projects such as HS2 many European countries (Holland and soon France are legislating LCA across all buildings).

The general approach of the new materials section and emphasis on using LCA to improve environmental performance from the design outset should be applauded.  eToolLCD was built with the primary intention of informing design outcomes and getting involved as early as possible, when we have the greatest number of opportunities available for improvement. By building an LCA models, analysing recommendations and presenting results we have influenced a reduction of over 500,000 tCO2e on our projects.  The high volume of LCAs that we produce has allowed us to form an extremely efficient workflow within the tool and we look forward to further helping design teams quantify and improve their building

The full 10 credits can be achieved using eTool by anyone with some basic construction knowledge. Our existing features align perfectly with the credit requirements.

Stage 2 analysis:  Often there is a shortage of information available at stage 2 to undertake a full LCA.  However we have always believed that these are the key times to deliver LCA analysis when the big structural decisions are being made and opportunities for improvement can be analysed.  That is why we built our unique template system which can provide very detailed LCA analysis using minimal information.  Our templates for entire wall and floor make-ups contain well-researched assumptions to fill any gaps in quantity information.  These can then be updated as the design progresses.

Optioneering: Another key component of eToolLCD is our recommendations reporting.  There is little point in building an LCA model if you are not going to try and improve the design outcomes or present lessons to the team, this is where the fun really begins!  We have a public library of recommendations that is building and improving with every new job and new suggestion that is proposed.  The library has groups of different recommendations that can be applied in bulk – high cost, zero cost, shell only, energy etc).  The user can record any change that is made to their model and report how they affect the impacts both environmental (CO2, water, acidfication, ecopoints etc) and monetary (£, Euros and $).  The team has a simple shopping list that can be prioritised based on what provides the greatest environmental improvement for the least cost.

Reporting: Nobody wants to spend their time copying and pasting graphs and tables into reports formatting, issuing, repeating.  This is time that could be much better spent digging deeper into our LCA work and finding recommendations! We now have several reports automated directly out of the software that provide information and results in an easy to follow format. These reports are automated from our LCA models as standard and will of course be fully compliant with Bre evidence requirements. We are continually working on improving the reporting for our users and will continue to improve on the presentation of the LCA work

LCC Allignment: Aligning he LCA and LCC is of vital importance for effective LCA work. Quantifying the costs of improvements will help teams prioritise how to get the best environmental gain for least capital spent. With our recent cost functionality it is a simple step to extract LCC results from your LCA model and report for the Man2 credits. Aligning the LCA with the LCC means that a full LCA will need to be completed including all elements within the build – finishes, operational energy etc . These are beyond the scope for the Materials credits however they can be easily added to a model using our template system.  Including operational energy in particular, can raise some very important design decisions. Do the savings from thermal mass or triple glazed windows make up for their embodied impacts, would more carbon be saved on spending 1k on solar PV or 1k on a timber roof, this is when LCA becomes a very powerful tool?

3rd Party:  The 3rd party verification is a great inclusion. Recent publications from RICS (Whole life carbon measurement: implementation in the built environment) suggest that there can be a large variance in results of LCA studies.  A 3rd party verification will not only improve the quality of individual LCAs but also encourage greater learning with the LCA community feeding back to each other improvements to processes and design options. eToolLCD has over 2000 registered users and eTool have certified over 300 full building LCA project.  Our certification service is provided to projects completed by commercial users as part of our standard software soffering. During the certification process a senior eTool LCA practitioner is made available to the project for the purposes of:

  • Assisting the LCA team with completing the study in compliance with relevant standards (Breeam LEED etc)
  • Reducing the risk to and elevating the professionalism of the users LCA service by peer reviewing their LCA study to ISO 14044 standards.
  • Assisting the LCA team with challenging concepts or modelling requirements.
  • Improving the LCA teams efficiency in completing LCAs using eToolLCD
  • Providing the LCA team with potential strategies that may be worth considering to reduce the impact of the design.

The certification system ensures a consistent, high quality of LCA studies is produced from the eToolLCD software. We will add to the certification checks those listed by Breeam such as review of total quantity data.

eTool hold the view that, if anything, the new credit offering does not go far enough and there exists further potential to deliver performance based design.  The optioneering is a vital component of LCA work, however further credit should be weighted towards the benchmarking.  As it stands a theoretical 100% timber building (which has zero CO2e impacts) would achieve the full 10 credits and an average building would achieve somewhere between 8 and 9 (depending on the benchmarking outcome).  There is opportunity to give more weight to the benchmarking performance which should be taken now, the climate catastrophe clock is ticking!

The new revision is by all means a positive step in the right direction.  Further detailed comments on the credit methodology (we encourage everyone to provide their own comments to the Bre) are shown below.

 

3rd Party

 “A suitably qualified 3rd party (see Definitions on page 294) shall either carry out the building LCAs or produce a report verifying the building LCAs accurately represent the designs”

One area that requires careful consideration by the Bre is who qualifies as a 3rd party.  The definitions communicated by the Bre state that anyone who has not consulted on the design is a 3rd party.  Given the LCA work will include optioneering and will often be completed by the Breeam/sustainability consultant, the LCA practitioner would always be considered a design team member.  The exception might be if the practitioner is given only designs to assess by the active team members (architects engineers etc).  They will not be able to propose options but the design team may put forward suggestions for them to then test.  This is somewhat grey and could get challenging for the Bre to assess.  At eTool we have a large public library of recommendations for our users to review and test on their models. Would the practiotioner who presents the model and recommendation options still be a 3rd party?  A far more appropriate and simplified approach would be to require a 3rd party verification whoever completes the LCA work, “3rd party” or not.

 

LCA Scope

The scope of the LCA is not entirely clear from the credit, should trade staff, their transport and equipment impacts be included?  eTool and our users always complete as full an LCA as possible to ensure there are no missed opportunities for improving the design.  We include trade staff and all equipment that they use to build and maintain the development over its life cycle (cranes, pile drivers, concrete pumps, vacuum cleaners etc). This can be of particular interest when, understanding different foundation systems and excavation requirements or when looking at modular buildings.

The scope of the LCA neglects finishes and fittings despite them making up a very significant portion of a buildings impacts. The current approach in the industry (and EN15978) is to include these and to assume the same products will be replaced throughout the buildings life cycle. We feel this is still the most appropriate approach and places emphasis on the elements that have the largest likely impacts under today’s conditions.  Taking LCA categories in their isolation can cause perverse design outcomes particularly in cases when the scope of the build also includes fit-out.  In whole building projects, the design team should be assessing each strategy on its environmental merits and prioritising.  Reducing the scope of the LCA only serves to reduce the scope for improvement strategies.  We recommend that when included within the scope of the build all optioneering should be included and given credit for, the LCA assessor will most likely do this anyway as a client requirement.

 

Functionality

eTool would also like to see some mention of “Functionality” in the principles.  Whilst there are challenges in benchmarking functionality good design is not being recognised in the principles and/or credit without some notion of function.  If an office can increase its floor plan by reducing service or car park spaces this should be encouraged (greater office area provided using the same resources).  Likewise, 60-year life expectancy is not accurate for the majority of high rise building which will be standing far longer and are therefore a more efficient use of resources and carbon than low density buildings which will face more re-development pressure over their life cycle. Often much bigger environmental wins can be gained through improved functionality.  Consider a concrete low rise building in an urban centre, it may well be knocked down within 50 years.  A high rise on the same spot on the other hand may well still be standing in 100+ years this represents a 50% saving of impacts (in terms of kg CO2e/m2/year). eTool recommend that optioneering can include functional improvements and that an accurate life expectancy is considered when comparing options.

 

Negligible Items

Negligible items. Whilst nails tend to be pretty negligible, adhesive and certain brackets are not always, of course this all depends on the scope of the LCA, nails could be the largest impacts of a small timber shed!  In a full LCA a great deal of adhesive can be used in carpets and finishes.  This is simple to quantify, xm2 times thickness (0.5mm of adhesive).  Likewise brackets in curtain walling and other systems can be very significant.  It is rare that a design team member will know the area of glue on a particular component.  We would advise therefore that it is always included as a conservative assumption. If its looking like a significant item then more information should be sought and the model refined. The LCA assessor should always use their own experience to determine the negligible items and follow the EN15978 rule of 1% of total environmental relevance or the RICS guidelines of 1% of cost.

 

Super Credit

We think there is an excellent opportunity to go further by completing a full LCA/LCC including operational energy and water. This could in the future lead to the super credit whereby all chapters in Breeam that can be quantified through LCA – energy, water materials, pollution (perhaps even health) are assessed in a single model with each environmental strategy assessed based on its actual quantified merits.  This allows the design team the maximum flexibility in meeting their targets as well as delivering quantified results in terms of reductions of CO2e (or any other environmental indicator).

eTool believe that the current separation of energy, water and materials is no longer necessary with the advancements in standards, LCI data sources, LCA tools, and knowledge within the industry.  Siloed thinking of environmental performance in this way leads to adverse trade-offs for the planet.  The only way to prevent these adverse trade-offs is to use life cycle assessment within a life cycle design process.  The construction industry is recognising this and moving to LCA for environment decisions makings.  Examples below:

– In standards development: CEN was directed by the EU to produce standards for voluntary rating of sustainable buildings.  They developed “EN 15978: Sustainability of Construction Works, Assessment of Environmental Performance of Buildings, Calculation Method” which is entirely LCA based.

– In regulation: Laws such as the 2011 French Grenelle regulation require mandatory LCA-based environmental product labelling.

– In Green Building Rating Schemes: DGNB, the majority of the environmental points are achieved through an LCA (quantifying water, energy, materials holistically through their life cycle metrics.

What Cladding?

Facade impacts can really add up, the cladding in particular on walls can take a real hammering in British weather and could be replaced 2 or 3 times over a buildings life cycle.  Picking the cladding with the lowest impacts can present significant savings both initially at product stage and over the life cycle as that cladding gets replaced.

I dropped a few of the cladding options available under Bre IMPACT to understand the heiarchy of choices that might present low carbon alternatives to design specifications

Capture

Of course their are many other factors that should be taken into account – framing, structure, glazing propotion etc but as a basic reference I thought the above might be useful.

eTool is growing! Join Us

 

eTool operates in the unique space of sustainability via clever technology – join us to be a part of this exciting future.

We offer the world leading life cycle design software for sustainable buildings and infrastructure.  eTool has achieved some particularly exciting milestones over the last 18 months expanding our market reach to become a truly global entity with offices in Australia, the U.K. and Americas.  eTool is recognised by rating schemes such as BREEAM, LEED, Green Star, The Living Building Challenge and One Planet Living.  We also have an impressive tier one client base from which to build on.

At this pivotal point in the company’s journey we are striving to rapidly grow the software subscriber user base and increase our local and global profile. With bright opportunities in front of us right now, we are seeking to hire a driven Business Development Executive to help build on our existing sales trajectories and accelerate revenue for eTool.  The responsibilities of this role will grow with the business, and given eTool’s growth trajectory this presents an excellent opportunity for a high performing employee to take their career to the next level.

eTool provides a flexible working environment and the excitement of working with an ambitious early stage company in a growth field that is vital for tackling climate change.

Business Development Executive (Sustainable Built Environment)

Responsibilities

  • Prospecting – building on our client base to accelerate new lead and client generation.
  • Pitching – selling eTool software and consultancy services to the construction sector
  • Communications and closing – following leads and ensuring effective delivery of eTool message throughout sale.
  • Monitoring existing eTool clients – refining our interaction and marketing towards them.
  • Ensuring that eTool clients are “quality” clients – managing expectations and continued engagement to ensure repeat business
  • Maintenance of the customer relations management system and sales reports
  • Assistance in improving sales processes, refining marketing materials and attending events
  • Identification of new markets and potential sales

Required Skills and Experience:

  • Relevant degree and/or masters
  • Excellent sales skills and experience with proven track record
  • Minimum 3 years demonstrable experience in liaising with, engaging and presenting to senior business leaders (preferably within the construction industry)
  • Excellent communication skills particularly spoken and presentation
  • Ability to influence decision makers and drive positive outcomes for construction teams

Desirable Experience:

  • Awareness of Breeam, LEED and sustainability ratings schemes
  • Previous experience or working knowledge of construction and sustainability consultancy (and key challenges they face)

 

Personal attributes:

This sales role requires initiative, autonomy, persistence and determination.  A desire to make a big contribution to the low carbon future is important, that is how we measure our success.  The maturity to know when, where and how to focus your efforts to foster both the short term and long term success of the business.

Salary:

Negotiable depending on experience – the right candidate can expect circa 30k base + 15-50k OTE.

This is a key role in a small team with big plans! eTool is setting up an appropriate employee share ownership scheme where key contributors can expect to enjoy the rewards of some equity ownership in this fast growing company over time.

Location and Hours:

Flexible hours and home working available, our UK office is based in Brighton however the candidate may be based anywhere within reasonable travel distance to London (for occasional meetings), a shared local office space can be provided.

Working hours will be full time however, part-time positions could also be considered.

Applicants are advised to complete our questionnaire and upload CV and covering letter to http://etool.polldaddy.com/s/etoolbdcoordinator

eToolLCD Automated Reporting

We love Life Cycle Design and we want to make it attractive to everyone. We are driven on innovation and passion, and backed up by a constantly improving scientific approach.  We are always looking for ways to make LCD more mainstream and encourage greater uptake by the built environment sector.

 

Transparency is key to successful Life Cycle Design practice and we are very excited to announce eToolLCD now produces EN15978 compliant automated reports.  Yes, no more editing documents or tables outside the software to produce your final reports!

 

Our goal with eToolLCD and our community of software users is to achieve carbon reduction by allowing better understanding and consistent measurement of the whole life carbon emissions of built projects.

GWP Graph

GWP Graph

The automated reporting functionality was developed to comply with the widely accepted environmental performance assessment methodology EN 15978. We all know eToolLCD produces results in accordance with EN15978 but the automated reporting increases a standardized approach to its practical implementation and interpretation including:

  • Introduction
  • Goals
  • Scope
    • Functional Unit, System Boundary, Environmental Indicators, System Description, Cut off criteria, Allocation, Independent review
  • Inventory Analysis
    • eToolLCD software, Data quality, Completeness,
  • Life Cycle Impact Assessment
  • Life Cycle Interpretation
  • Conclusions
  • References
    • Background LCI Data, Inventory Design Documentation, Inventory Assumptions, EPDs
  • Appendix
    • Environmental Indicators Description, Detailed Structure Scope Diagram, Detailed Life Cycle Inventory

Click here for an example report

We are making Life Cycle Design easier for everyone so get in touch with us to start using eToolLCD or engage eTool as consultants on your next project.

Redução do Impacto do Ciclo de Vida do Edifício – LEED (Portuguese)

Análise de Ciclo de Vida (ACV) é uma metodologia usada para avaliar os impactos ambientais associados a todas as etapas da vida de um produto ou serviço. É uma abordagem holística que engloba a extração dos materiais, processamento, fabricação, distribuição, uso, reparo, manutenção, descarte e reciclagem ao fim da vida útil. A ACV quantifica os impactos ambientais e compara a performance por meio da funcionalidade do produto ou serviço. A performance de um prédio comercial, por exemplo, pode ser avaliada por meio do impacto ambiental por m2 de área locável por ano (kgCO2/m2/ano). O estudo de ACV permite identificar as potenciais áreas para aumento de performance e redução de impacto ambiental, podendo também incluir recomendações de melhoria para a equipe de projeto. A ACV é regulada pelo padrão internacional ISO 14044 (e EN15978 especificamente para edificações) e a aplicação na área de construção civil é utilizada mundialmente para promover desenvolvimento sustentável.

Na certificação LEED, o objetivo do crédito Redução do Impacto do Ciclo de Vida do Edifício é otimizar o desempenho ambiental de produtos e materiais e permite obtenção de até três pontos. Apesar da metodologia permitir avaliar impactos relacionados a todo o ciclo de vida do projeto, este crédito LEED (opção 4) tem o foco apenas na estrutura e recinto do edifício, durante período de 60 anos. Ao comparar a performance do projeto proposto com o modelo de referência (Baseline), a equipe de projeto deve demonstrar redução de impacto de no mínimo 10% em pelo menos três categorias de impacto (por exemplo: aquecimento global, depleção da camada de ozônio e eutrofização).

A eTool, empresa Australiana especializada em avaliação do ciclo de vida de todo o edifício, desenvolveu o software eToolLCD que atende aos requisitos técnicos da norma ISO 14044 e pode ser utilizado na certificação LEED. A eTool iniciou operações em 2012, já completou mais de 300 análises internacionalmente e é pioneira no uso de ACV para certificação na Austrália (Green Star). Atualmente, está expandindo os serviços na Europa (BREEAM) e nas Américas. Os projetos LEED que utilizaram o software eToolLCD incluem: King Square 2 – Cundall (Austrália), Wildcat Building – Arup (Dinamarca) e ENOC Tower – AESG (Dubai).

“A única forma de garantir redução de impacto ambiental é quantificar a performance ao longo da vida útil do projeto e a metodologia de ACV foi desenvolvida para auxiliar na tomada de decisões. Este crédito LEED será muito importante para as equipes de projeto trabalharem de forma ainda mais integrada e o software eToolLCD facilita muito esta análise”, afirma Henrique Mendonça, engenheiro da eTool que está de volta ao Brasil depois de passar cinco anos na Austrália e se especializar na prática de ACV de toda a edificação.

Saiba mais sobre nossos projetos recentes aqui.

 

 

LCA – More than just easy credits

Since being awarded IMPACT compliance in Christmas 2015 eTool now have many clients successfully using eTool on either a consulting basis or as LCA software providers.  With an IMPACT compliant LCA they can guarantee the two bonus LCA Materials credits in Breeam New Construction 2011/2014. These credits are awarded as a bonus to the Green Guide materials credits and awarded for completing an LCA and reporting on the results. 6+1 credits can also be achieved under Breeam Fit-out/Refurbishment/International, up to 23 credits in HQM and 3 under LEED.  The tool can also be used to assist in life cycle costing Man 2 credits, and Mat 06 Resource Efficiency.  The Bre are trying to encourage uptake in LCA and for the time being the credits can be applied at any stage of the design – effectively points for trying.

Below are just some of the clients who we have been working on LCAs with to date.  Although the primary motivation is often Breeam related, LCA is also providing some fantastic learning outcomes for design teams.

etoolclients

“We have been using eToolLCD for the last year and have completed 3 certified assessments.  As with any new software there is a learning curve involved but the training and level of support has been excellent and we can now complete an IMPACT assessment on our project in a couple of days (depending on complexity).  This has enabled us to give our clients and design teams valuable information on the environmental impacts of design options as well as giving an additional 2% to the projects BREEAM assessment once the eToolLCD model has been certified.” David Barnes, Volker Fitzpatrick 

Find out more about our recent projects here.

 

 

Validated Templates in eToolLCD

What is a Validated Template?

The eToolLCD software allows you to conduct a life cycle assessment of a whole building quickly and accurately. To quantify the environmental impacts of a whole building over its whole life is not a trivial exercise. eTool has made the process manageable. Conducting a Life cycle assessment is becoming a normal part of the design process.  This is made possible by the depth and breadth of templates available in the eToolLCD Template Library.

A Template is the term we use to describe the logical grouping of elements, e.g. a concrete block wall.

Within the Template Library, there are private, public and validated templates. As a user, you can maintain the privacy of your templates if you choose to. However, we encourage you to Request Validation of your templates. This will initiate a process where an eTool Certifier will review the template and once it is has passed an QA check, it will be Validated. The template then becomes Public and Validated. It will show the Thumbs Up symbol alongside the title when viewed in the Library browser.

Screenshot of eToolLCD Template

Screenshot of eToolLCD Template

What is involved in the process of Template Validation?

The key points in the Quality Assurance process we use to validate templates include;

  • Read the Description (under the Details tab) and follow any links to external documents or sources of information. The creator of the template should include enough information in the Description to allow an independent verification of the material types and quantities and explain any formulas used
  • Check the material quantities in the Template, comparing against supplied references and or similar Templates in the Library
  • Check the overall impact of the Template compares reasonably to functional equivalents
  • Check the Library Template Quantity by inserting the template into a test design and confirming the calculated quantities behave as expected
  • Work through the details of any checks that fail with the template author until the Template passes all checks

The eToolLCD Template Library provides a rich knowledge resource to all of our users. We encourage you to create new Templates where you see a gap in the Library and to get these templates Validated.

Closed Loop Recycling and EN15978 – how does it work?

I’ve heard its complicated why is that?

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

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

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

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

So how does it work?.

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

boundary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The life cycle stages for the aluminium are shown below

alum recy 1

Kg CO2e by LC stage for 1000kg of general aluminium 

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

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

Hmmmmmm…

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

O.K. That wasn’t too bad

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

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

Wrong!  Here is what happens….

alum recy 2

Kg CO2e by LC stage for 1000kg of general aluminium 

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

Whoa, that’s deep.

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

So what do we take from all of this?

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

*Note figures show are taken from eToolLCD September 2016

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

Sustainable Design Principles 101 – Multi-Residential Australia

This post is designed to guide design teams during early design stages prior to any form of drawing mark-up. It describes a pathway of continuous building improvement through easy low hanging fruit strategies to incorporation of renewable technologies and advanced design principles. As sustainability becomes engrained in the construction industry it is important that stakeholders maintain an understanding of what the market expects both presently and going forwards into a low carbon future.

Capture

Achieving Targets – The Basics

Generally a multi-residential apartment building built to BCA standards (electric hot water, 6 star Nathers and standard air conditioner) will have approximately the same impacts as the benchmark average dwelling (4.2 tonnes/person/year). They tend to be smaller (less space to heat and cool), have longer design lives and high occupancy (reducing the impacts on a per person per year basis). The chart below represents the life cycle Impacts of a typical multi-residential apartment building.

Capture 2

Typically there are a number of “low hanging fruit” design improvements that are low cost and low risk to implement. The measures focus on operational energy which generally makes up 70%-80% of the total life cycle impacts. The measures are detailed below for a standard apartment building with a mix of one and 2 bed apartments, please note these are indicative figures and will vary depending on final design, density, services and materials used.

Sustainability Measure

Typical percentage improvement
Gas hot water system 25%-30%
Lighting motion sensors/timers in common areas 6%-8%
Apartment Energy Monitoring 2%-4%
Behavioural Change Programs 2%-4%
Low flow shower heads (5l/minute) 1%-2%
Limit refrigeration space to less than 750mm 0.6%-0.7%
Ventilated refrigeration cabinetry 0.4%-5%
Total approximate 37%-45%

 

With implementation of the above measures the building will achieve approximately a 37% to 45% improvement sitting at a Silver medal rating. To achieve greater improvements renewable technologies are needed.

 

Renewable Technology Typical percentage improvement
Solar Hot Water (1m2 per dwelling) 3%-4%
Solar PV (1kW/ 10m2 per apartment) 5%-7%

 

The majority of medium rise flat roofs can easily accommodate the above with room left over for other elements such as flues and skylights. The low hanging fruit combined with some renewable generation will typically achieve around a 45-55% improvement.

 

 Achieving Targets – Best Practise

For higher ratings to be achieved, there will need to be upwards of 1 kW and per apartment and over 10m2 of roof space available alongside the measures detailed above. This can require careful consideration of roof designs from the outside and in some instances, consideration of options off-site such as community owned solar PV farms may be required.

Renewable Technology Typical percentage improvement
Solar PV (2kW/ 20m2 per apartment) 10%-14%
Solar PV (3kW/ 30m2 per apartment) 15%-20%
Solar PV (4kW/ 40m2 per apartment) 20%-28%

 

Roof Orientation for PV:

Capture3Once a residential building gets above 4 storeys, or a commercial building gets above 3 storeys, it will likely end up in a position where the solar technologies that are required are constrained by the roof space that is available. In this situation the design team should take roof design into consideration from an early stage and optimise it for solar panel installations. The following guidelines should be considered:

  • By installing panels “flat” on a roof, many moor panels can fit because they do not need separating for shading.
  • Shading from surrounding objects and buildings is an important consideration however it is rarely a problem in multi-residential buildings taller than their surroundings. PV can be very worthwhile even if partially shaded and can may still deliver significant carbon savings compared to other measures.
  • For designing roofs in this situation, the following considerations should be made.  Note that the below loss figure for varying orientation and pitch are applicable to Perth (latitude of 32 degrees):
  • The orientation of the roof can significantly aid the amount of PV or Solar Hot Water that can be installed in the diagram above

– North facing panels at 32 degree pitch gives optimum energy gain over the whole year (100%)

– Dropping pitch to 5 degrees only results in a loss of approximately 9% (91% of optimal generation)

  • If panels are to be pitched at lower than 10 degrees, consideration should be given to at least annual cleaning until it is proven that soiling is not effecting generation.
  • If possible, avoid hips in roofs as these significantly reduce the amount of PV that can be installed.  It is far better to pitch the roof in two directions only.  Even pitching north and south in two directions is likely to result in a better overall result than in four directions.  The south facing panels may generate less power per panel than the east or west, but more panels will be able to be installed because hips won’t have to be avoided and this will more than make up for the slight loss of efficiency in south facing panels.
  • Very wide gutters can significantly affect the available roof space for solar collectors.  Consider overhanging the roof structure over a required large gutter.
  • Protruding services that break up the roof space should be designed if possible on the south side of the building.  This reduces the losses due to shade for solar collectors across the whole roof.
  • Roofs with multiple heights are complex due to overshadowing.  If possible avoid this.

For solar hot water systems the same rules apply however slighting more consideration may be required to match demand with pitch, so a higher pitch to meet the higher winter water heating demand.  This is not such an issue with PV as it can be fed into the grid when generation is higher than demand.

 

Advanced Design

Some of the recommendations listed below represent paradigm shifts not only in actual construction but also in the marketing and sales strategies that may be required to ensure a developments viability. There may be times when it makes more sense to invest the money that would go into some of these expensive onsite solutions to other local projects that can deliver more value and higher CO2e savings. Examples of this may include Investments in street light upgrades, existing housing retrofits, solar panels on local schools and buildings, behaviour programs, community farms, bicycle infrastructure etc.

Functionality

The more people a building can house the less impact per person that building will have. Furthermore for every person that is housed in a sustainable building that takes one more person out of the average, unsustainable building – moving society towards a low carbon economy faster.

Typical multi-residential buildings have approximately 50% of the total floor area dedicated to actual living space, the rest tends to get tied up in common areas, car parks, plant rooms etc. By minimising the common areas you reduce impacts on two fronts: living area available for the same volume of materials, and reducing the operational energy required to light and ventilate the common spaces (this can typically take up to 15% of the total CO2e emissions).

 

ratio net dwellable area/gross Floor Area Life Cycle Reduction in Emissions
45%
50% -3.1%
55% -5.6%
60% -7.7%
70% -11.0%
80% -13.5%

 

There are numerous ways that common areas can be reduced:

Capture 8

Space efficiencies can also be gained by increasing the number of stairwells whilst reducing the common walkway areas.

Capture4

Although stairs are likely to be the more expensive option, this could be recouped by adding the spare hallway space into each apartment, in the example above this provides an extra 8.75m2 per apartment.

Typology (Beds and bathrooms)

Environmental impacts can be reduced through increasing the occupancy of the apartments themselves. Whilst 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartments are fashionable, with good design that (rarely used) spare bathroom could be a third bedroom instead. This provides an increase in the overall sustainable living space of the building without impacting on the floor area being constructed

 Materials

In many ways embodied carbon is equally (and perhaps more) important a consideration than operational energy. eTool LCAs will typically assume current grid intensities throughout the 100+ year predicted design life of a building. This means operational energy makes up around 80% of the total impacts. In reality over the next 100 years the grid will decarbonise and operational energy will contribute much less over time. The embodied carbon in materials on the other hand is locked in from the year the material is manufactured and transported to the site. There are many low impact alternatives to common materials in construction. Timber and CLT can be used in place of concrete and steel. Where concrete is necessary fly-ash or blast furnaces slag blends should be incorporated, these are waste products that can directly replace a proportion of the concrete thereby reducing its impacts.

graph 1

Timber veneers and plywood should be avoided due to the high impact of the glues and resins used in these products. Plasterboard also has very high impacts. Alternatives such as plain hardwood, bamboo or MDF represent significant savings. IF plasterboard is to be used 6mm sheets should be preferred to 12 mm sheets with acoustic requirements met through insulation which is typically low in CO2e emissions.

graph 2

Carpets (especially wool) should be avoided with cork or polished concrete finish preferable. If absolutely necessary carpets should be dark coloured (to avoid replacement through soiling) and plant based materials such as jute and sisal should be specified that have natural/non-synthetic rubber backing.

graph 3

Lighting

There tends to be little difference in terms of environmental benefit between CFL lights and L.E.D lighting Increasing natural light levels using solar-tubes, skylights or similar means less use of artificial lighting energy. Specifying lighter matte colours to surfaces such as the balcony, ceiling and walls will bounce light deeper into the dwelling thus increasing natural lighting. Light shelves in windows is another passive way to divert and bounce light deeper into the dwelling. Similar systems using adjustable louvres can also be used. Providing translucent shading material in addition to heavier curtains allow the option of diffused daylight to penetrate whilst maintaining privacy. The top of the windows is where light penetrates deepest into the dwelling, so it is important to ensure that this part of the window is not obstructed by drapery or blinds. Translucent partitions between rooms also allow light to be drawn into deeper rooms. Clerestory windows also provide a method of introducing more natural light into central rooms.  Ideally these should be utilised with higher ceilings and high reflectance surfaces in order to encourage light to penetrate.  In order to prove the value of these initiatives a daylighting simulation should be undertaken to ensure expense is not incurred for no benefit.  This will likely make this recommendation hard to justify economically (there will be many far easier wins elsewhere in the building.

Gas cookers over electric

In regions with fossil fuel dominated electricity grids such as WA, gas represents a large advantage over electricity for providing energy to cook with.  This is due to the heat and electricity losses associated with distributed power.  Burning the fuel (gas) at the source eliminates these losses and is a more efficient way of using the fuel. The majority of gas cookers sold today include safety features that automatically turn off the gas when no flame is present. Rinnai has also developed the ‘inner flame’ technology that produces a flame that is directed inwards which is about 27% more efficient than standard gas stoves. The drawback to moving to gas cooking is that a gas pipeline may need to be installed. If the implementation of this strategy is outside of the project budget the developer may offer the strategy as an upgrade package for purchasers. This eliminates the need for upfront capital while promoting best practices and educating the public.

Or Induction cooktops

An all induction cook-top is an alternative that could deliver carbon savings over a standard electric cook-top.  Induction cook-tops work by transferring electrical energy through induction from a coil directly to the magnetic pan. Only the area in contact with the coil heats up and therefore the cooker can be up to 12% more efficient than a standard electric conduction cooker.  The controls on an induction cooker are also far more precise giving a greater range of cooking techniques.

Car Park Ventilation

By applying a detailed engineering design to the car park ventilation systems, it is expected that the fan run times could be considerably cut down especially when natural ventilation is utilised.  Computational fluid dynamics would be utilised in this technique to determine how to best move air through the car park to maintain acceptable CO2 levels with minimum energy demand.  Gains may also be achieved in reduced ducting.  At least a 20% saving in ventilation may be achieved.

Biodigesters

Biodigesters turn food and or human waste into gas that can be used in cooking. Although not well established in western countries this technology has been used for hundreds of years in China and India. Communal or individual systems exist that may be incorporated into an innovative building design.

 Appliances

The appliances that go into the building can make a significant proportion of the recurring impacts.  Modern appliances tend to have fairly small warranty periods in relation to the lifespan of a building.  TVs in particular can often not last more than 10 years.  Ensuring that appliances are purchased second hand and those that are purchased new have a long warranty and are kept for as long as possible can provide significant carbon savings.  In this recommendation we have assumed each appliances lasts twice as long as the standard warranty. Where appliances are installed they should also be of the higher MEPS rating bands for energy efficiency.

Thermal Performance

Modern 6 star dwellings in Western Australia need very little in the form of heating/cooling. The developer with sustainability in mind will provide only ceiling fans for cooling and renewable biomass pellet heaters for heating. Bio Where air conditioners are provided they should be single split units which can obtain higher efficiencies generally than multi splits. A COP/EER of 5 is exemplary.

Tri-generation, deep geothermal and shallow ground source heat pumps can also be appropriate in very large developments with high demands such as precincts with swimming pools. However they entail very high outgoing capital costs and the environmental benefit should be considered carefully against other technologies.

Swimming Pools

Most importantly swimming pools should be appropriate for the size of the development. Proportionally 50m2 pool shared amongst 100 dwellings will have 100x fewer impacts per dwelling than the same size pool provided for a single dwelling. Where pools are installed they should ideally be naturally heated through ambient air and install pool covers that contain the heat when the pool is not in use. Typically including a pool cover which can operate automatically or manually for 8hrs per day during the pools closed hours has a 28% saving in the pools heating energy demand. Pool pumps efficiency should also be considered carefully, high-efficiency pool pumps of up to 9 stars MEPs rating are currently available on the market.

 Hot Water

Alongside solar thermal technology and low flow shower heads, an opportunity exists to warm the inlet temperature of the water by using a heat exchanger. Water exiting apartments in the sewerage drains will have a higher temperature than the normal inlet temperature of water coming into the building from the mains, particularly in winter.  By passing the inlet water over the warmer outgoing water, the temperature can be increased. A 5% reduction in energy demand of the hot water system can be achieved.

For communal systems there will be significant heat losses in the pipe carrying the hot water around the building as well as from the individual water storage tanks. Based on the conservative assumptions of a 25mm pipe with 25mm of insulation (125mm total diameter) the heat losses are estimated to increase the hot water demand by 10%. Correctly installed 50mm pipework insulation could therefore reduce the losses through hot water pipe by approximately 5%.

 

eTool

The door is always open at eTool for questions surrounding design decisions. If a project is in concept phase we are happy to sit down for an hour and discuss potential strategies and targets. Full targeting sessions are also available at low cost to determine more accurately the costs involved in achieving design aspirations. Following this our full LCA will provide the most detailed environmental assessment available.

 

Benchmarking Philosophy

eTool recently changed from offering numerous fairly localised benchmark options to a single international average benchmark for each building type.  The decision making process was interesting so I thought I’d quickly document it.

The purpose of the eToolLCD benchmark is:

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

From the outset we’ve always understood that a benchmark needs to be function specific.  That is, there needs to be a residential benchmark for measuring residential buildings against etc.  The first point essentially addresses this.

The second point introduces some complexity.  What is, or should be, “average, business as usual”?  More specifically, are people interested in understanding how their building performs when compared compared locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally?

When we started trying to answer this question, some scenarios were very helpful.  If a designer wants to compare locally, the benchmark needs to reflect the things that are most important to the overall LCA results.  The two most critical things are probably electricity grid and climate zone.  Localising just these two inputs gets pretty tricky and the number of possible benchmark permutations starts to add up pretty quickly.  In Australia there are four main independent electricity grids (NEM, SWIS, NWIS and Darwin).  In the Building Code of Australia there’s 10 climate zones.  Accounting for which climate zones occur within each grid, there’s about 20 different benchmarks required.  To add to the complexity though, the NEM is split into different states (New South Wales, Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia).  Generally, because the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting guidance splits the NEM into different states, the NEM is usually considered as six different grids. So there’s upwards of 50 different benchmarks we’d need to create and maintain for Australia alone just to localise electricity grids and climate zone.

One disadvantage of this method is it’s still not all-accommodating.  It doesn’t account for remote grids of which there are many in Australia.  An example is Kunnanurra which is 100% hydro power.  So even in this scenario where we had 50 or so benchmarks for Australia, there’s still big potential for a designer patting themselves on the back for a great comparison to the benchmark when really it’s just a local condition, and vice versa.  The same can be said about an off grid scenario (effectively just a micro grid of it’s own).

The other disadvantage is maintenance of all these benchmarks.  Expanding the above scenario internationally there could easily be 1000’s of possible benchmarks.  There’s so many that it would be hard for eTool to initially create them, and even harder to subsequently maintain them.  Clearly the localised benchmark option had some big challenges.

At the other end of the benchmarking philosophy we considered just having generic benchmarks, or even one global benchmark.  This is perhaps a more user-centric, or building occupant sensitive system.  That is, the building occupants are probably more interested in this measure as it’s more about how they live compared to the global community.  So a building may be “average” compared to the local context, but actually be very low impact compared to the broader average (due to favourable local conditions).  Conceivably, the local conditions contributing to the ease with which a building can perform may be part of people’s motivation for living in a particular area.

The disadvantage of the generic benchmarking approach is that it isn’t as useful for a designer to compare their building’s performance against this as the local conditions (which may create a significant advantage of disadvantage) aren’t considered.  This was a big consideration for us, eToolLCD is a design tool, it has to be relevant to designers.  Interestingly though, the way eToolLCD is generally used is the base design is modelled, and then improvements are identified against this base design.  The benchmark is usually only used towards the end of the process as a communication and marketing tool.

Also, there’s no reason why the designer can’t model their own local benchmark, for example, a code compliant version of their own design.

This topic spurred some serious debate at eTool.  In the end, the deciding factors were:

  • A local approach couldn’t really be adopted without localising at least the grid and climate zone for each benchmark option.  That is, it would have been too difficult to go half way with localisation (for example, only localising climate zone and not grid), as this really just revoked the whole advantage of localising the benchmarks.
  • Taking the very localised approach was going to put a huge benchmark creation and maintenance burden on eTool which wasn’t necessarily productive
  • The choice of a generic benchmark didn’t detract from the function of eToolLCD as a design tool.
  • Greenhouse Gas pollution is a global problem not a local problem, we feel people probably need to measure and improve their performance against a global benchmark rather than a local one.

So the single global benchmark was the direction we choose.  Once this decision was made, we needed to determine how to statistically represent global averages.  We decided to choose an aspirational mix of countries to make up the global benchmark, that is, select the standard of living that we felt most people in the world aspire to and determine the average environmental impacts of buildings in these demographic locations.   This does mean the global benchmarks are generally higher than the actual global average building stock for a given function.  That doesn’t stop us from estimating what the sustainable level of GHG savings is against this aspirational benchmark (90%+).  It also enables us to strive for this level of savings without adversely effecting our standard of living aspirations (globally).  The global benchmark created using this approach is the residential benchmark.  More information about how this was conducted can be found here.

For those people or organisations that would like a customised benchmark, eTool can provide this service.  Please get in touch.