Does an eToolLCD “Certification” count as a peer review?

Yes. It is an interactive process to ensure your model and project not only meets required standards but also gains the most value out of engaging with Life Cycle Assessment.

What design detail is required to get started?

Requirements for Life Cycle Target Setting Service:

  • Design brief documents (pre concept design)

Minimum Requirements for basic comparative LCA modelling:

  • Conceptual design / sketches

Required for EN15978 compliant LCA:

  • Detailed architectural plans
  • Construction specification
  • Structural Drawings
  • Building energy modelling reports including thermal control, hot water, lighting, vertical transport and other building integrated systems
  • Equipment specification including details of any onsite generation, energy monitoring etc

Desirable Supplementary or Complementary Information:

  • Hydraulic, Elec. Struct. Engineers drawings and reports
  • Intended occupancy data (hours, number etc)
  • 3D BIM Model (ArchiCAD, gbXML, Sketchup, IFC)
  • Actual energy data if retrospective assessment

Should I use eTool at the beginning of my project as a design tool or at the end as an assessment tool?

eToolLCD is as much a “Design” tool as it is an “Assessment” tool.
To achieve the biggest improvements in your design it is best to use eToolLCD right from the conceptual stages of your design. As part of the standard eTool Assessment, we will provide recommendations for improvement and a short consultation session with you or your designer.
That said, you can use eToolLCD at any stage of the design and construction process to make improvements. Customers even use eTool on completion to quantify the final carbon footprint of their design and then offset it with certified carbon credits.

How is eToolLCD and Life Cycle Assessment different from other energy and carbon assessment tools?

eTool uses a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) method to include both the “Embodied Energy” and the “Operational Energy” over the total design life of the building or development.
Most other assessment tools only assess the operational aspects and hence miss half of the equation when it comes to quantifying the total energy and carbon footprint of a design.
Further to that eToolLCD is web based, free and very user friendly. This enables us to ensure LCA becomes a standard design philosophy for the built form.

What is the difference between an “Assessment” and a “Certification”?

An “Assessment” is where you supply the design details and we do all the work to provide you with a report, recommendations and ultimately a “Certification”.

A “Certification” is where you use the eToolLCD yourself to conduct your own “Assessment”.
Once you are finished we just check through your work to ensure it meets the basic assessment criteria, then we certify it and supply the associated “Certification” documents.

Estimated time to certify an EN15978 compliant LCA model and report

The normal steps in the certification / review process are listed below:
  1. Submit model/s for certification
  2. QA / QC Checks on eToolLCD model/s (eTool)
  3. Complete / update eToolLCD model/s
  4. eToolLCD model/s certified in the software (eTool)
  5. Complete EN15978 report (from eTool templates at present but moving to software in the near future) and submit to eTool for third party review
  6. Third party review round 1 feedback (eTool)
  7. Update EN15978 compliant report and respond to round 1 feedback
  8. Third Party review round 2 feedback (eTool)
  9. Update EN15978 compliant report and respond to round 1 feedback
  10. Finalise Third Party review (eTool)
Time frames for this process range from 5 days to many weeks depending on how well developed the LCA model is, how quickly the software user is able to respond to queries and how much time is taken to complete/update the LCA report.

How does eTool “certify” my eToolLCD model?

eTool have an internal procedure for certifying designs that evolves with our software and our experience.  Essentially we check the users inputs to ensure that the LCA model complies with the system boundary, scope, and accuracy requirements.  We have a mix of automatic reports and manual processes that we run through to check the users inputs.  We also compare the project to similar projects in the growing eToolLCD database which provides a good ‘sense check’ on not only the over-all result but also individual elements in the building.

Why do we “certify” eToolLCD user’s inputs?

There’s a host of reasons why we certify users designs, here’s a few:

  • From day one eTool recognised the importance of comparable and accurate results flowing from our software.  By checking users’s inputs eTool can ensure comparability.
  • Industry is renowned for criticising software, and software companies are renowned for pointing the finger at user’s inputs (garbage in garbage out).  We wanted a different relationship between users and eToolLCD where there was no need for finger pointing
  • ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 standards for LCA call for all studies to be verified by a third party, it made sense for us to offer this service as we understand the inner workings of the software which is important for an LCA verification.
  • It provided us with a revenue model that didn’t require large upfront fees, and this allows the proliferation of affordable LCAs, and lower impact buildings (project budget is no longer a key factor in commissioning an LCA)

If access to eToolLCD software is free how do you expect to generate revenue?

Our primary aim is to make LCA philosophy a standard component to all design processes.
In order to achieve this the software had to be extremely accessible and hence the decision to make it free. We do understand that in order to achieve our primary aim we also need to generate revenue to advance and improve the software; as a result our current revenue streams are based on the following components:

  • Assessments: We offer the service of completing an assessment for people who don’t have the time or desire to use the software themselves. These assessments are charged at a rate that covers our time and work required for eTool to gather the data from your design and conduct the assessment. The service also comes with standard recommendations that allow you to improve your designs.
  • Certifications: We ask that anyone who uses the software for commercial gain (please see our software “Terms and Conditions” when you first register for use) to “certify” their designs. Essentially this is a service where we will check your assessment to ensure it has been completed correctly and present you with a report and certificate that allows you to publish your results to clients.
    If you choose not to certify you cannot in any form claim reference to eTool software outputs.

We feel that through the above revenue streams we will be able to continue to support and develop our software while ensuring it remains as accessible as possible to the greatest number of users.

eTool LCA Medals Explained

eTool thoroughly believes in the science of LCA and is committed to following international standards for reporting results. We also recognise that many people are more inclined to concise information summaries in the format of certificates or ratings. For this reason we developed a rating system that summarises the LCA performance of your building and chose a medal system to reward best practice design.
True to LCA standards, we measure the performance of buildings against a benchmark, and the medals are awarded according to the carbon emissions reduction for the improved designs. Our benchmarks are “average” buildings of like utility, in a similar climate zone to the building being assessed. For example, if assessing a new home, we will choose a residential benchmark in the same climatic zone as the building being assessed.

The all important functional units then come into play to allow fair comparison between building life spans and size. For example, a residential buliding will have its carbon emissions reduction measured per year per occupant, where as a commercial building will be measured per year per square meter. Longer design lives and increased functionality are therefore rewarded in eTool ratings.

The ratings system is summarised below:

Bronze MedalSaving of up to 30% equivalent green house gas emissions measured in mass of CO2 equivalent measured against the applicable benchmark
Silver Medal30 to 60% Saving
Gold Medal60 to 90% Saving
Platinum MedalMore than 90% Saving. In addition, to receiving an overall platinum rating, a gold medal must be achieved in both operational and embodied carbon.

Getting an overall platinum medal is a very difficult feat. This is due to the difficulty in significantly reducing your embodied impacts. Our lifestyles have become so accustomed to externalising environmental damage through the indirect use of cheap fossil fuel energy, we rarely spare a thought for the impact of our expenditure on goods, even if we are quite conscious of our home or transport related energy use.

To date, eTool has only awarded one overall platinum medal for a building project. In this case, they were able to achieve the result by preserving the majority of the structure, it was a residential renovation with extension. Other methods of achieving low embodied impacts include:

  • Extending design life or functionality
  • Use of recycled materials
  • Re-use of materials
  • Low carbon materials

For more detail on low carbon design principles, consider an eTool training session which we are now running online.

Please contact us for more information.