Did eTool Create The Life Cycle Design Methodology?

It’s important to understand that eTool created the software eToolLCD, which is compliant with the international standard EN15978. eTool utilises eToolLCD to conduct the environmental assessments and there are other LCA practitioners and ESD consultants that also use the Life Cycle Design methodology to provide services in accordance with international standards.

Why Hasn’t My Sustainability Consultant Heard Of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

LCA has a long history and has recently risen to preeminence as the preferred environmental metric in sustainability evaluation.  However, many consultants are not yet familiar with LCA because historically it was a very complex and academic practice that is only recently being utilised more broadly due to advancements in LCA software, data, standards and skills.

Green Star Approach and Potential Limitation With The Current Framework:

  • Eliminating the possibility of double counting benefits e.g. points for zero impact refrigerants and more points for refrigerant leak detection system;
  • Limited consideration of recurring impacts;
  • Limited consideration of end of life treatment of buildings products;
  • Limited (if any) consideration of materials transport;
  • Limited (if any) consideration of trade staff transport to site (both during construction and then in the maintenance phase);
  • Although construction waste is covered, there’s no quantification of the impacts (transport, processing, disposal, recycling) and hence there’s no way of understanding how much effort should be going into waste management;
  • No consideration of embodied impacts of building components, for example, solar PV panels.

Is The Assessment Independently Reviewed?

Local councils allowing a project’s performance to be demonstrated using a self-assessed or provisional method, is taking the risk of reports not being consistent and not adequately demonstrating the minimum requirement of Green Star rating. Local government agencies are implementing a quality assurance process by requiring a third party review of self-assessed, or aspirational Green Star reports.
Life Cycle Assessment conducted following ISO standard is required to complete an independent review of the LCA study before promoting the results.

Scope of Assessment

Green Star – Design & As Built, for example, assesses the sustainability attributes of a building through nine categories:

  • Management
  • Indoor Environment Quality
  • Energy
  • Transport
  • Water
  • Materials
  • Land Use and Ecology
  • Emissions
  • Innovation

Life Cycle Design can assess the impacts related to all categories listed in Green Star by expanding the system boundaries beyond the building scope. Most importantly, LCD will evaluate whole of life performance, from materials extraction to demolition / end of life impacts. LCD is unique in quantifying and reporting on multiple environmental impact indicators, including:

  • Ozone depletion
  • POCP
  • Eutrophication
  • Human Toxicity
  • Marine / Land Ecotoxicity
  • Particulate Matter
  • Acidification potential
  • Water footprint (GS reports on end use consumption only)
  • Ionising Radiation
  • Abiotic Resource Depletion
  • Fossil Fuel Combustion

Limited Consideration of Design Life

Building Life Expectancy: The life expectancy of the building has a large impact on the results of the LCA. Buildings with large lifespans will have proportionally lower impacts in the construction stages and higher impacts due to operation. The difficulties (and costs) in demolishing the 20-storey building would be challenging for someone looking to re-develop the site in the future, combined with the high density of people likely to be using the space implies the re-development potential is low. The building may be likely to remain operational well beyond the current 60 year Green Star default assumption.

Design Functionality And Benchmarking

Green Star uses a National Construction Code (NCC) compliant version of the proposed building as a benchmark, which has a potential to reward large car parks and low functionality design elements.

Life Cycle Design uses a common benchmark for the specific building function and provides an opportunity to increase functionality before improving building efficiency.

Example: If a design has large common areas (lobby, corridors, amenities) and the primary function of the building is not optimised (net lettable area in commercial buildings for example), then comparing the performance against a code compliant version of the same building will limit the opportunity to increase its functionality.

Initial Impacts vs Life Cycle Impacts

Green Star doesn’t include quantification of any environmental indicator across the whole life cycle of the building (except if project uses the Materials Life Cycle credit option).

Life Cycle Design utilises Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to model whole of building whole of life performance, from construction through to end of life including all use phase impacts.

Example: Adding thermal mass will initially increase the embodied impacts of a project but might present savings over the operational phase, with lower energy demand for heating and cooling. Maintenance, repair and end of life impacts of additional thermal mass have to be analysed using integrated design approach.

Compliance with International Standards

Green Star is a voluntary rating system and Green Building Council of Australia designs the framework with the support of partners in the building industry.

 

Life Cycle Design uses Life Cycle Assessment, which is a scientific method for quantifying environmental performance of buildings and is aligned with the international standard EN15978. This international standard was developed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) – Technical Committee 350, formed by a technical body of professionals from 28 countries.
https://etoolglobal.com/faqs/lca-standards-etoollcd-comply/

Assessment method: Prescriptive versus Performance Based

Green Star uses a prescriptive method by giving credits for initiatives that are implemented into the design. These credits are translated into points using an internal Green Star weighting system. The total score will give the design a final rating. Depending on the credits utilised, the final environmental performance can vary significantly for the same final rating when a scientific calculation method is used to quantify the results. For example, eTool conducted a study that a 6-star Green Star building can have a performance range from 28% to 77% in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions1 reduction. The building performance will also vary depending on project type and scale.

Life Cycle Design (LCD) methodology is performance based and the improvement strategies are quantified and prioritised based on their performance for the specific project. LCD provides a greater emphasis on initiatives that deliver real and quantifiable environmental benefits rather than using a prescriptive method. LCD uses a comparative analysis, quantifying and comparing the performance of the proposed design against a code compliant benchmark building of the same function obtain the final result. LCD uses various impact indicators to provide quantitative results.

Example: The overall benefits of solar PV will depend on; the environmental performance of the electricity grid the project is connected to, the impacts associated with embodied carbon (materials, repair, replacement, transport) over the life of the building, efficiency of the system, generation capacity and others. The only way to quantify the real final performance is by running a life cycle assessment of the PV system applied to a specific project.