Super Credit (Materials+Energy+Water) for Green rating schemes

eTool believes the “Super Credit” based on the life-cycle methodology should be adopted in the short term as an innovation credit (alternative pathway for material, water and energy) in rating schemes like Green Star and ISCA.

In Green Star, LCA could be used to reward not only “Materials” but also the ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ and ‘Potable Water’ credits when whole of building LCA is considered. Operational energy and water impacts are accounted for in separate credits within the existing rating tool – ‘Greenhouse Gas Emissions’ and ‘Potable Water’, respectively. Given the LCA would also account for these impacts, the proposed approach uses the LCA model as a pathway to integrate all three credits. This option became known as the ‘super credit’.

Project could potentially tap into 39 points under the Green Star – Design & As Built (v 1.2) rating tool using this performance based approach:

Materials (Life Cycle Assessment):  7 Points

Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Modelled performance): 20 Points

Potable Water (Performance pathway): 12 Points

This approach means that the energy and water modelling will still need to be done following the original credit description, however the inclusion of the “operational impact” data (modules B6 and B7) into the same LCA model will enable the most accurate and transparent environmental picture of a building project. Understanding how each part of the building (from material choice, water supply and treatment, up to a HVAC system selected) accounts for the total environmental performance, is a key for better design decisions. In addition, the combination of energy, water and material credits into one LCA model and quantifying points achievable via the ‘Super credit” could help to close some gaps of the Green Star Design and As Build 1.2 rating scheme.

Another rating scheme that is currently adopting the life-cycle philosophy and will benefit from it in a short term is IS – Infrastructure Sustainability.

As a member of the iSupply register with ISCA (Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia), eTool suggested the 3-in-1 LCD for materials, energy water ISCA credits. Among all rating schemes in Australia, IS rating is probably most innovative and progressive, adopting the continuous improvement processes and developing a new WWEM tool to combine water, waste, energy and materials calculators into one tool, sort of a “super calculator”.

With an LCA conducted using eToolLCD software even more IS credits could be achieved: Mat-1, or RSO-6, Ene-1, Ene-2, Wat-1, Wat-2, ECN-4, Man-6, Man-7, Lea-3, Innovation credits, resulting in up to 40 points (or almost half of the IS rating 2.0).

Super credit 3 ISCA

Siloed thinking of environmental performance leads to adverse trade offs for the planet. LCA prevents these adverse trade offs, and when coupled with a life cycle design process leads to large environmental performance improvements. There is now a strong trend in uptake of LCA for environmental decision making.

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-centric.

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

– In Green Building Rating Schemes: DGNB. LCA forms the bulk of the environmental assessment, LCC for economic and there are some tick boxes for social credit.

– A new EU rating scheme Level(s) that encourages the use of the LCA. Still early phases but it could end up being rolled out across the EU.

eTool believes the “super credit” would enable any sustainable rating scheme to progress towards the most holistic assessment methodology.

The advantages of the super credit

Good Environmental Outcomes: There is a much lower risk of negative trade-offs by integrating embodied and operational impact into the same analysis, instead of understanding the impacts of different categories separately.

More tangibility for the design team to understand the contribution of each improvement strategy and prioritise them. For example: recycled carpet vs lighting sensors vs high efficiency HVAC vs high efficiency water fixtures.

– Identifying different hot spots of a building depending on location (energy and water grids type) and building type. For example, an office building located in Victoria today (very high operational energy requirement, highly intensive grid) will likely need to focus largely on energy efficiency to improve environmental performance. Alternatively, residential buildings in Tasmania will likely have to put much more effort into materials, transport, construction, maintenance, replacement, water efficiency etc as the impacts relating to energy will be a much smaller percent of a reference buildings.

Aligned with global trend towards LCA (future-proofs the rating tool) that accounts for whole of project impact analysis.

Simplifies the maintenance of the existing calculator tools. Single LCA model to enter results from materials, energy and water.

Time-efficiency. The LCA outputs can be used to address multiple credits, not only related to the materials, energy, water, but also cost, innovation, waste, recycling content, maintenance and management decisions.

The reasons put forward for not adopting the super credit are not aligned with eTool’s experience in the application of LCA in the design process of hundreds of projects in Australia and abroad. LCA is only a “relatively coarse approach” if the practitioner is not guided on the method of underlying calculations that are applied in the LCA.

In the case of Green Star and ISCA projects there is nothing preventing the use of the same calculation methods for Operational Energy and Water that exist today (and indeed these are the figures used in Green Star and ISCA LCA studies).

Module A1 – A5 are arguably more predictable than water and energy consumption estimates (which rely on occupant behaviour). The significant challenges faced by eTool as a business who supply LCA software and LCA services to the construction sector are not generally technical in nature. For example, we’d consider the psychology of building developers to adopting strategies that the LCA identifies to improve the environmental performance of their projects to be more challenging.

We are not aware of challenges that would prevent the industry from adapting to a rating scheme using LCA as a core calculator for environmental performance (as for example DGNB have done) and offer our assistance in overcoming those challenges facing GBCA, ISCA and other rating systems.

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  1. […] believes that the previous separation of energy, water and materials is no longer necessary with the advancements in standards, LCI data sources, LCA tools available, and the knowledge within […]

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