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 workflow

If you’re wondering how to complete your LCA models using eToolLCD you have landed on the right place. This is a basic step by step process to start a model from scratch all the way through to certification. There will be variances depending on the project type you’re modelling and the purpose of the LCA but we hope this provides a good initial guidance. You can always check the example projects in your account to compare the scope and make sure you’ve added all required project info.

 

etoollcd-workflow

  1. Inform eTool about your new project and pay the project fee (except for Specialist users who can work on unlimited projects per year).
  2. Create a project, structure and you base design (to be used as reference for comparative LCA process) in eToolLCD.
  3. Insert project information using the “Details” tab.  Be sure to use the ‘Compare Benchmark’ – eTool have created a number of Benchmark buildings; including a Residential and Office type. Comparing your design to those Benchmarks will highlight any major gaps in your Life cycle inventory.
  4. Include templates from library or customise your own templates. Make sure you customise templates in the library first, before you load them into your models.
  5. Compare the scope of your Design with the example projects and the Benchmark designs (which you can see in the eTool Library). You can also use the Construction Scope and Energy and Water Scope which are on the Project details as a checklist of items to consider in the data collection phase of your life cycle assessment.
  6. Run the Top Impacts reports – check that the usual suspects and expected items are on the list.
  7. Compare the total impacts of each building Category (Substructure, Superstructure etc) against the Benchmark – (blue bars versus grey bars)
  8. Submit your Base design  for Certification by the eTool team. This is quality assurance service and an LCA mentoring process
  9. Clone your Certified Base design to create a LCA – Scenario, often called your Improved design.
  10. Identify the strategies to reduce the Top Impacts – use the Recommendations tab to document these design improvement strategies.
  11. Implement design improvements using the “Recommendations” tab and other features like bulk swap. Make sure you record the changes so they can be automatically populated in your reports.
  12. Generate the reports automatically from the software and present to your clients:
    • Target Setting Study (preliminary design advice)
    • Design Feedback Report (design development stage)
    • Environmental Infographics (Useful for marketing and communicating to layperson)
  13. Clone the improved design into a final design and implement all confirmed design improvements.
  14. Submit final design for certification with eTool.
  15. Generate reports from Certified Final design
    • Emissions certificate
    • Infographics
    • Life cycle inventory
  16. Get out there and be proud of achieving a genuinely sustainable design outcome!

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

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.

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

 

 

Impact Category Definitions

What are all these new impact categories eTool can now measure?  Below are some definitions:

Climate Change impacts result in a warming effect of the earth’s surface due to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, measured in mass of carbon dioxide equivalents.

Stratospheric Ozone Depletion is caused by the release of gaseous chemicals that react with and destroy stratospheric ozone. Although the Montreal treaty has significantly reduced the use of the most damaging substances and there is evidence that the abundance of ozone depleting gases is reducing in the atmosphere, some releases of ozone depleting chemicals still occur.

Acidification Potential provides a measure of the decrease in the pH-value of rainwater and fog, which has the effect of ecosystem damage due to, for example, nutrients being washed out of soils and increased solubility of metals into soils. Acidification potential is generally a regional impact and is measured in mass of sulphur dioxide equivalents. The mechanism dominating the acidification impacts is the combustion of fossil fuels, release of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide which dissolves with condensed water in the atmosphere and falls as rain. The term acid rain describes severe incidents of this mechanism.

In general terms, Eutrophication Potential provides a measure of nutrient enrichment in aquatic or terrestrial environments, which leads to ecosystem damage to those locations from over enrichment and is measured in mass of phosphate equivalents.

Tropospheric Ozone Formation Potential is the creation of lower atmospheric ozone (commonly known as smog) due to the mechanism of VOCs reacting with sunlight. In particular, the release of carbon monoxide from steel production is predominant; however other releases such as nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide and methane also contribute significantly to POCP.

Mineral & Fossil Fuel Depletion (Abiotic Depletion) provides an indication of the potential depletion (or scarcity) of non-energetic natural resources (or elements) in the earth’s crust, such as iron ores, aluminium or precious metals, and it accounts for the ultimate geological reserves (not the economically feasible reserves) and the anticipated depletion rates. It is measured in mass of antimony equivalents.

Human Toxicity, in general terms, refers to the impact on humans, as a result of emissions of toxic substances to air, water and soil, and is expressed in terms of damage to human health by the index mDALY (1/1000th of a disability adjusted life year)

Land Use is measured in years of use of arable land (m2.year). This describes the area and time land is occupied by production systems both natural and industrial for the production of the building materials but not the occupation of the building itself. While not strictly an impact category it is linked to general land use pressure and is therefore a proxy for biodiversity and other land competition impacts.

Resource Depletion (Water) provides an indication of the total net input of water used throughout the life cycle of the building.

Ionising Radiation covers the impacts arising from the release of radioactive substances as well as direct exposure to radiation. The impact is expressed in terms of damage to human health by the index uDALY (1/1,000,000th) of a disability adjusted life year.

Ecotoxicity refers to effects of chemical outputs on nonhuman living organisms. Expressed in comparative toxic units (CTUe) it provides an estimate of the potentially affected fraction of species integrated over time and volume per unit mass of a chemical emitted.

Particulate Matter is defined as a mixture of solid and liquid particles of organic and inorganic substances resulting from human activities and suspended in the atmosphere. Several studies show that PM causes serious adverse health effects, including reduced life expectancy, heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, low birth weight, and premature birth. Precursors involved in PM formation include sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3), and volatile and semivolatile organic compounds. Measured as either PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers) or PM10 (particulate matter between 2.5 to 10 micrometers). Finer particles can travel deeper into the lungs and are usually made up of materials that are more toxic therefore PM2.5 can have worse health effects than the coarser PM10.

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.