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LCA in Sustainable Infrastructure

This article provides an insight into the latest sustainability policies and regulations that have integrated the Life Cycle Design approach. Continue reading

BIM & LCA – aiding a more collaborative approach to sustainable design.

In 2019, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) published the first two international standards for Building Information Modelling (BIM):

  • BS EN ISO 19650–1 Organisation of information about construction works – Information management using building information modelling – Part 1: concepts and principles
  • BS EN ISO 19650-2 Organisation of information about construction works – Information management using building information modelling – Part 2: Delivery phase of assets.

Both of the ISO 19650 standards supersede BS1192:2007 + A2:2016 (principles) and PAS1192 part 2 (capital/delivery phase).

This long awaited move to an international BIM standard not only allows for greater collaboration on global projects, but also brings designers and contractors closer together through clear and precise information management.

So where does LCA fit into this?

The earlier you engage with Life Cycle Design the better. It is at pre-design stage where any decisions made have the biggest influence on energy demand and the environmental impact of a project, while featuring the smallest costs for changes to the design.

It is at early design stage where we need to come together and adopt a collaborative approach on a design that maximises its sustainable potential by including all parties in the design process.

new graph

 

As we have established, efficiency and collaboration on a project is the key factor during early planning stages. When it comes to sustainable buildings, designers will need to be aware of a plethora of information such as embodied carbon, resource use and toxicity. It is highly likely that this will require numerous iterations of the design, in order to produce the desired outcome.

The use of BIM in the design process will allow the design team more time to consider the sustainability factors of the project, by engaging with other members in a more collaborative approach.

With the advancement in BIM/LCA technologies, we are now in a fortunate position where there are LCA tools that can be integrated with BIM to assess the environmental impact of a building.

Standalone embodied assessment tools require data or a model to be imported from a separate BIM modelling application each time an assessment is carried out. Aside from being a laborious task, this is highly inefficient, and collaboration between all parties breaks down.

Many LCA tools have now been developed that offer BIM integration, however there still needs further improvement until LCA can work seamlessly within BIM. In many cases the result are far from ideal, with workflows being unable to work correctly in real life projects.  One contributing factor that can cause inaccuracies and mistakes in LCA results when produced through a BIM integrated workflow, is the human factor.

This is predominantly due to the level of detail in the BIM model. The LCA results will only be as correct and accurate as the BIM model itself. Omission of an element in the BIM model will naturally lead to the respective LCA scope reduction. Incorrect or too generic modelling of an element in the BIM model will lead to false modelling of this element in the LCA model.

Although the above principle can apply in all AEC BIM workflows, in the case of LCA, the effectiveness of the workflow also highly depends on the basis over which the LCA tool works. There are two distinct methods to obtain the Quantities Take-Off from a BIM model, the component level method and the material level method. When the material level method is used, the quantities are extracted from the BIM application material by material, sometimes with meta data showing the component this material belongs too. When adopting this approach, the Human Factor can negatively impact the accuracy of the results quite significantly. This is due to the current Level of Detail (LOD) the industry usually applies in the BIM models. A typical example of this are the glazing quantities, since it is very unlikely and probably also not worthwhile for the modeller to model the exact thickness of the two glazing panes of double-glazed window. Instead it will be modelled as one thick layer of glass that also overlaps the air gap between the panes. In addition, in the early stages most of the elements in a BIM model are filled with generic materials that describe the element itself instead of the actual material.

Using the component level method, which is also the approach followed in eToolLCD, the quantities go along with the components, not the materials. This means that the user will get the total area of a double-glazed window, not the total volume of glass and the total volume of the frame. This gives the user the opportunity to map these components with the respective ones within the LCA tool.

In eToolLCD, this approach is enabled by the utilisation of an extensive component (or template as it is known within e ToolLCD) library, which are essentially the virtual twins of the BIM components and the real life constructed components. With minimal effort from the LCA practitioner, they can then map all material quantities with LCI data sets, enabling higher accuracy of the final results due to the way the low LOD is handled and resolved.

By opting for whole of project life cycle assessment tools (such as eToolLCD) that are incorporated within widely used BIM applications i.e Revit, via a plugin (see this post for further information on eTool’s Revit plugin), it will encourage a more collaborative approach, enabling all parties involved in the project to have an input and make it possible to assess the overall sustainability of a project from conception through to demolition.

With the new ISO BIM standards focusing on collaboration, coupled with the LCA/BIM holistic approach to sustainable design, this truly gives us the opportunity to have a positive impact on our surroundings and the environmental impact of our buildings in the future.

Related article: Does eToolLCD integrate with 3D CAD packages or BIM?

eToolLCD Environmental Indicators

Whilst undoubtedly climate change currently remains the greatest environmental challenge of our time and our recommendations will focus on this, there are many other environmental indicators that can be measured in eToolLCD. Interestingly many are also heavily impacted by the burning of fossil fuels therefore, quite often a reduction in CO2e can often also lead to a reduction in many other indicators. A summary of some of those currently measured in eTool can be found below.

Global Warming Potential. Anthropogenic global warming is caused by an increase of greenhouse gasses (GHG) in the earth’s atmosphere. These gasses reflect some of the heat radiated from the earth’s surface that would normally escape into space back to the surface of the earth. Over time this warms the earth. Common GHGs include CO2, N2O, CH4 and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Global Warming Potential (GWP) is expressed in equivalent GHGs released, usually in kgCO2e.

Embodied Energy. Embodied Energy (EE) is a measure of the primary energy content of non-renewable energy sources including the energy required to extract, process and deliver the non-renewable fuels, or manufacture, transport and install and maintain a renewable generator (hence there is usually and non-renewable energy content associated with renewable energy sources also).

Water Footprint. The pressure on global freshwater resources arises from the demand for everyday goods and services which use water in their production. The interconnected nature of global economic systems means that water abstraction can occur far from where final consumption occurs. Managing water resources is extremely important for the health of the environment and our current and future agricultural, industrial and personal water requirements. Freshwater can be derived from renewable sources (rainwater) and somewhat non-renewable resources (aquifers). The water footprint indicator distinguishes from these sources and provides an understanding of the depletion of fresh water sources, in particular from non-renewable resources.

Land Use Land transformation and use causes biodiversity loss. The main cause of the loss of biodiversity can be attributed to the influence of human beings on the world biosphere. Biological diversity is the resource upon which families, communities, nations and future generations depend. There is a general acceptance that the term biodiversity encompasses diversity numerous levels, for example genetic level, populations/species level, communities/ecosystems level and regional landscapes level). Unfortunately, there are currently no methods which allow for simultaneous measurement of all levels of biodiversity. There have been numerous attempts to integrate direct and indirect land use in LCA and its impact on biodiversity but none of the proposed metrics are fully operational or applied globally.

Ozone Depletion Ozone is formed and depleted naturally in the earth’s stratosphere (between 15-40 km above the earth’s surface). Halocarbon compounds are persistent synthetic halogen-containing organic molecules that can reach the stratosphere leading to more rapid depletion of the ozone. As the ozone in the stratosphere is reduced more of the ultraviolet rays in sunlight can reach the earth’s surface where they can cause skin cancer and reduced crop yields. Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) is expressed in equivalent ozone depleting gasses (normally kgCFC11e).

Acidification Potential. Acidification is a consequence of acids (and other compounds which can be transformed into acids) being emitted to the atmosphere and subsequently deposited in surface soils and water. Increased acidity can result in negative consequences for flora and fauna in addition to increased corrosion of manmade structures (buildings vehicles etc.). Acidification Potential (AP) is an indicator of such damage and is usually measured in kgCO2e.

Human Toxicity Potential Human results from persistent chemicals reaching undesirable concentrations in each of the three elements of the environment (air soil and water). This leads to damage to humans, animals and eco-systems. The modelling of toxicity in LCA is complicated by the complex chemicals involved and their potential interactions. Human Toxicity Potential (HTP) takes account of releases of materials toxic to humans in three distinct media being air, water and soil. The toxicological factors are calculated using scientific estimates for the acceptable daily intake or tolerable daily intake of the toxic substances. The toxicological factors are still at an early stage of development so that HTP can only be taken as an indication and not as an absolute measure of the toxicity potential. In this case, the indicator is measured in Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY).

Eutrophication Potential Over-enrichment of aquatic ecosystems with nutrients leading to increased production of plankton, algae and higher aquatic plants leading to a deterioration of the water quality and a reduction in the value and/or the utilisation of the aquatic ecosystem. Eutrophication is primarily caused by surplus nitrogen and phosphorus. Sources of nutrients include agriculture (fertilisers and manure), aquaculture, municipal wastewater, and nitrogen oxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion. It is measured in terms of kg of phosphate equivalents kg PO4eq.

Abiotic Resource Depletion Minerals And Energy. A combination of both Mineral and Fossil Fuel Abiotic resource depletion. This is a measure of the burden today’s society is placing on future generations by depleting available resources.

POCP Photochemical Ozone Creation Potential (POCP), commonly known as smog, is toxic to humans in high concentration. Although ozone is protective in the stratosphere at low levels it is problematic from both a health and nuisance perspective. Plant growth is also effected through damaged leaf surfaces and reduced photosynthesis. POCP is formed when sunlight and heat react with Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). POCP is measured in kg ethylene.

Ionizing Radiation. Ionizing Radiation (IR) characterises impacts from the release of radioactive species (radionuclides) to air and water. The species most commonly accounted for are the radionuclides of caesium, iodine, radon and uranium etc. Anthropogenic sources are the nuclear fuel cycle, phosphate rock extraction, coal power plants, and oil and gas extraction. When released to the environment, they can impact both human health and ecosystems so the end_point areas of protection they relate to are human health and the ecosystem quality.

Marine Aquatic Ecotoxicity. The potential effect of toxic releases and exposure on marine environments.

Terrestrial Aquatic Ecotoxicity The potential effect of toxic releases and exposure on terrestrial (land-based) environments.

Ecotoxicity. The potential effect of toxic releases and exposure on environments.

Particulate Matter. Particulate Matter (PM) or respiratory inorganics cause health issues in high concentrations. PM concentrations vary widely around the world. The main contributors are industrial operations and power generation. However, PM emissions from vehicle exhaust can contribute significantly to health damages because they are emitted in high-density areas and at low elevation. Secondary aerosol precursor emissions in many areas are due to vehicle exhaust and domestic wood heaters. Ammonia emissions from agriculture are also a major contributor to secondary PM. They are measured in kgPM2.5

Water Consumption. The pressure on global freshwater resources arises from the demand for everyday goods and services which use water in their production. The interconnected nature of global economic systems means that water abstraction can occur far from where final consumption occurs. Globally, water use has been increasing at more than twice the rate of population growth, and most withdrawals are in watersheds already experiencing water stress. Managing water resources is extremely important for the health of the environment and our current and future agricultural, industrial and personal water requirements. Freshwater can be derived from renewable sources (rainwater) and somewhat non-renewable resources (aquifers). Consumptive water (H2O C) use is abstracted water that is no longer available for other uses because it has evaporated, transpired, been incorporated into products and crops, or consumed by man or livestock.

Abiotic Resource Depletion Minerals. Abiotic Resource Depletion of energy (ADPM) is a measure of the extraction and consumption of primary resources from the earth. Such exploitation reduces resources available to future generations and as such must be managed.

Human Toxicity Cancer. Life cycle impact assessment of toxicity takes into account the fate, route of exposure and toxicity impact of toxic substances when released to air, water or land. Categories of chemical substances commonly accounted for are pesticides, heavy metals, hormones and organic chemicals. Human toxicity, cancer measures the potential for toxic releases or exposure to cause cancer in humans.

Human Toxicity Non-Cancer. Life cycle impact assessment of toxicity takes into account the fate, route of exposure and toxicity impact of toxic substances when released to air, water or land. Categories of chemical substances commonly accounted for are pesticides, heavy metals, hormones and organic chemicals. Human toxicity, cancer measures the potential for toxic releases or exposure to cause cancer in humans.

Freshwater Ecotoxicity. Life cycle impact assessment of toxicity takes into account the fate, route of exposure and toxicity impact of toxic substances when released to air, water or land. Categories of chemical substances commonly accounted for are pesticides, heavy metals, hormones and organic chemicals. Human toxicity, non-cancer measures the potential for toxic releases or exposure to cause damage to freshwater environments.

Water Scarcity. The pressure on global freshwater resources arises from the demand for everyday goods and services which use water in their production. The interconnected nature of global economic systems means that water abstraction can occur far from where final consumption occurs. Managing water resources is extremely important for the health of the environment and our current and future agricultural, industrial and personal water requirements. Freshwater can be derived from renewable sources (rainwater) and somewhat non-renewable resources (aquifers). The water scarcity indicator (H2O S) expands on the water footprint indicator by not only distinguishing from these sources and providing an understanding of the depletion of fresh water sources but also relating this depletion to scarcity in the freshwater supply in the local region.

Ionizing Radiation. Ionizing radiation characterises impacts from the release of radioactive species (radionuclides) to air and water. The species most commonly accounted for are the radionuclides of caesium, iodine, radon and uranium etc. Anthropogenic sources are the nuclear fuel cycle, phosphate rock extraction, coal power plants, and oil and gas extraction. When released to the environment, they can impact both human health and ecosystems so the end_point areas of protection they relate to are human health and the ecosystem quality.

Abiotic Resource Depletion Energy. Abiotic Resource Depletion of energy (ARDE) is a measure of the extraction and consumption of non-renewable energy sources (primarily fossil fuels, but also inclusive of other energy sources such as uranium). Primary energy content of non-renewable energy sources including the embodied energy to extract, process and deliver the non-renewable fuels, or manufacture, transport and install the renewable generator. Hence there is usually and non-renewable energy content associated with renewable fuels also.

BRE Ecopoints.  A single metric score that weights the various environmental indicators covered in Bre IMPACT according to their environmental significance.

The diagram below presents some of the damage pathways (environmental, human, resource) that the indicators impact on.

ReCiPe2016-impact-categories

(Courtesy of Simapro)

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.

GBCA Green Star 2014 Incorporates LCA Credit

Last year, the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) announced the launch of two Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) based “Innovation Challenges”, which challenged the industry to incorporate Whole of Building LCA (6 points), and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) (2 points) into new and registered Green Star projects.

Just this month, GBCA released their Summary of Changes to Credits report where life cycle assessment is now a draft credit offered for Green Star. The newly added Material Life Cycle Impacts credit makes up to six points available for whole-of-building, life cycle cycle assessment:

  • 4 points for realising an improvement across six environmental impact categories in comparison to a theoretical benchmark building
  • 1 additional point available for including an additional five impact categories in the analysis

This is exciting news for life cycle assessment as it signifies the growing global trend towards LCA as the preferred design and assessment method for sustainable buildings. Just last month, the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA) also embraced life cycle assessment in their EnviroDevelopment standards.

eTool is a leader in life cycle design and assessment through our innovative, sophisticated life cycle assessment software and consulting services and offer a range of services to best suit your needs. Please contact us if you have any queries about the new LCA Green Star credit or if you would like to discuss how eTool can assist with your Green Star project.

Watch this space as life cycle design continues to soar and eTool congratulates GBCA for another positive development in Green Star.

 

 

eTool LCA Software Updates – Summer 2014

EN15978 Compliance

The last few months have been hectic for our software development team. We brought the software into line with the European standard EN15978 – Sustainability of construction works – Assessment of environmental performance of buildings – Calculation method.  We undertook so eTool could be used to gain innovation credits in Green Star projects.  For out international audience, this is a environmental rating scheme managed by the Green Building Council of Australia.

Technically the update was a big challenge, EN15978 a very comprehensive standard with quite strict rules regarding how the LCA calculations should be conducted.  It’s a piece of work we planned back in 2012, we did need that little commercial push to undertake the change, and the opportunity to utilise eTool LCA for Green Star projects provided this.  We are really happy that we managed to complete this piece of work.  We really think the planet has a lot to benefit from through this standard, and hopefully through the use of eTool LCA.  Here’s some reasons:

  • EN15978 was written by CEN technical committee 350 who are also developing other standards to meet there overall mandate of delivering standards to holistically assess the sustainability of construction works.  This is really exciting.  It effectively draws a line in the sand and gives really solid guidance on how we should be assessing the buildings.  It includes social, economic and environmental considerations for sustainability.
  • A good Life Cycle Assessment is without doubt the best way to measure and improve the environmental performance of something.  This has been recognised by CEN TC 350 who have relied on it nearly exclusively for the environmental assessment of buildings.
  • CEN TC 350 also developed a standard for the assessment of building products.  These will be used by the new ECO EPD framework being developed in Europe which will align most of the major EPD Program operators.  Now this is exciting.  Finally, we have an international system that reports truly comparable data for construction products.  It’s equivalent to nutrition labelling for building products (substituting health info with environmental info).

All this means the stars are nicely aligning for low impact buildings.  There’s a huge opportunity to cut through the greenwash if industry uptakes this approach.  One of the things we love about this approach is it actually enables policy makers to set budgets in order to ensure we hit sustainability goals.  I’ve written about this concept and how it might be approached here.

Software Speed Improvements

Users during the last 12 months would have noticed that at times, particularly for very big designs, the software laboured.  It was getting pretty frustrating for our ops team who were working more and more on complex LCA models for large projects.  We’d delayed tackling this problem because it required a massive re-write of the back end.  There’s nothing worse than spending two months labouring on a software improvement project, then delivering the result which looks exactly the same!  It was a very nice change though, to give you an idea of the performance improvement, we had a large test design that was taking the best part of four minutes to save, now it’s taking just two seconds.  The big driver for this was actually to enable more features to be introduced to eTool LCA that would have otherwise slowed it down further.  There’s more coming!

Record Recommendations

This is probably  my favourite new feature.  It makes the job if modelling and tracking improvement ideas very easy.  I can honestly say this has enabled our operations team to significantly increase the research time we can allocate to identifying more improvement ideas.  Less time doing little admin tasks like copying and pasting data between eTool and spreadsheets, and more time focusing on reducing the impacts of the design.  All users need to do now is hit record, model the improvements, hit stop and every change to an impact due to that improvement will be recorded at different life cycle stages of the building.  And it’s recorded for every indicator too, so you can see how much carbon you saved verses how much money you saved.   I love using this feature.  Check it out.

eTool LCA Software Updates – Spring 2013

eTool is always busy in the background updating the libraries available to users.  Lately we’ve ramped up the activities in a big with with some major updates to our libraries.  Even more exciting is that we’re improving the functionality of eTool with some big software development projects.  I thought I’d take some time to update you.

Library Updates

Earlier in the year we conducted a large LCA study on a cutting edge development in the UK, One Brighton.  The study was commissioned by Bio Regional who run the One Planet Living sustainable living framework.  We will be publishing the results of this study before the end of the year.  During the modelling we adapted a pretty cool approach to modelling the UK Benchmarks where we morphed a number of different density buildings, based on the new build mix, to create a weighted average density and size building.  Our previous approach to this was to pick the most popular density building and adjust it’s size and other characteristics appropriately.  We liked the new approach so have also applied that to Australia.  This was timely as the density mix in Australia is also changing pretty dramatically as we embrace higher density living, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne (Sydney is now building more apartments and semi-detached dwellings than detached).  The new residential benchmarks are loaded up into the eTool Library read to compare your project against.  We’re also working on some office building benchmarks also, and looking into community buildings.  Watch this space!

Out templates library is also undergoing a bit of an overhaul.  There’s more to come but essentially we’ve be consolidating the current templates library and adding new templates where needed.  This will be an eternally evolving project and we have some really cool ideas about how users can share templates that we’re mocking up at the moment with implementation in mind.

Our materials, transport, equipment and energy databases are about to get an overhaul to.  You may have heard the GBCA has introduced credits for LCA.  Some of the indicators they’ve chosen weren’t being tracked by eTool so we’re in the process of updating this data.  Some interim updates have been performed including updating electricity grid coefficients to match the latest NGERs figures in Australia, and updates to some water grid figures (notably Perth to account for the increasing reliance on desalination).

Software Updates

Some big projects are now underway to take the eTool software to the next level.  See our product road map to get an understanding of the long term goals.  The focus is on aligning eTool with relevant international standards (in particular EN15978).  In the process we’re also fixing bugs along the way and generally improving the user experience.  Recent or impending improvements are listed below.

Functionality

Improved speed for the app.  You may have noticed that working on large designs the app started to labour a bit, or a lot if you were working on really big designs.  We’ve cut the save / clone time down by 75% which although is a good start is just the tip of the iceberg, we’re aiming to get a 95% improvement in performance in speed through a project that is revolutionising the back end of eTool.  I won’t go into the details, I’ll just say it’s a big project but is going to pay big dividends to users.

We’ve also changed the UI a little. Projects will soon be listed more conveniently (most recent on the top of the list when you log in).  There’s a big expansion in functionality for documenting project recommendations and our reports are about to get some serious attention also.

Bug Fixes

A few pesky bugs have also been fixed:

  • All design details now clone properly
  • Custom template details now clone properly
  • Reports on a design can be seen by all users accessing that design
  • Updates to certificate calculations to include PV generation and limit overall rating when gold savings aren’t achieved in both embodied and operational categories

 

GBCA Introduces “Life Cycle Assessment”

As part of the “Green Star 2014” program of works the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has announced the launch of two Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) based “Innovation Challenges”. Providing up to 8 points in the Green Star Innovation category, the challenges will encourage the industry to incorporate Whole of Building  LCA (6 points) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) (2 points) into new and registered Green Star projects.

This is a fantastic development for the Green Building industry, the owners/occupants of the buildings and ultimately the environment. Whole of Building LCA provides a brilliant platform to understand the total ecological footprint of a building, facilitate ease of comparison against alternative designs and ultimately find ways to improve the final outcome of the project.

While forming the basis of the British and European standard for calculating environmental impacts of buildings (BS EN 15978:2011), LCA is now rapidly propagating into the industry as can be seen with its incorporation into BREEM, LEED, and now Green Star.

The integration of LCA within Green Star will provide an opportunity for organisations to get up to speed and ahead of the pack as LCA becomes mainstream.

Under the “Life Cycle Assessment: Material Lifecycle Impacts” “Innovation Challenge” a project will be potentially eligible for 6 points by conducting a Whole of Building LCA

  • 4 points for realising an improvement across four environmental impact categories in comparison to a theoretical benchmark building
  • 1 point for comparison against a real example building of similar function
  • 1 point for including an additional five impact categories in the analysis

For more details on these exciting “Innovation Challenges” please head to this link

With almost four years of delivering Whole of Building LCA’s and developing LCA software, eTool is well positioned to assist organisations looking to capitalise on this new “Innovation Challenge”.  Our proven, streamlined, accurate and cost effective process gets results and makes Whole of Building LCA easy.

eTool is able to provide “eTool LCA” software and training within your organisation, enabling you to either conduct your own LCA’s or our engineers can consult with your team to complete LCA’s on your behalf.

We anticipate that projects aiming for “five star”, and in some cases “four star” ratings, will find improvements in the required LCA environmental impacts readily achievable. This, combined with the simple and cost effective eTool LCA process, will enable access to up to 6 points in an economical fashion.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss the technical details of the “Innovation Challenge” or would like to see how eTool can assist with your Green Star project.

eTool congratulates GBCA on this exciting development and looks forward to assisting in the process of making buildings better.

 

eTool LCA Product Development Roadmap

Over the last 3 years, we’ve been innovating and developing our LCA software to meet our commitment to combating climate change through low carbon building design. As well as adding new environmental indicators and cost impacts, we’ve made the interface more user friendly and are working hard to keep adding more international data and locations for our growing global user base.

In this video, Rich our Product Development & Operations Manager takes you on the journey of where we see eTool and eTool LCA heading. We know that our software is pretty unique and has been evaluated as one of the best carbon measurement tools in the world by sustainability academics, but that doesn’t mean we’re resting on our laurels!

We want you to understand our future vision of LCA and see the key player it will be in the green building revolution that we’re embarking on.

Watch this…

Zoom in and out for more detail here

 

Putting our homes to the test!

We all know building sustainably and making the right environmental decisions for your home can seem complicated, so we’ve decided to show you how simple it really is using eTool LCA…

Alex Bruce our Business Development Manager and in-house renewable energy engineer lives at 1 Wylie Place in Leederville, Perth. As some of you may know, Leederville is a very trendy area north of the river with lots of mixed development houses, units, shops, restaurants, a cinema, supermarket and many other businesses.

It’s part of the City of Vincent and just one train stop from Perth Underground Station, a 10-15 minute ride from the office (20-25 minutes if you’re me) or a 10 minute drive depending on the traffic.

Alex’s townhouse is a two floor, double brick construction and part of a Strata complex built in 1986.
So to get the LCA started, Henrique inputs the number of bedrooms, the construction type, suburb redevelopment potential, design quality and expected occupants. All of this information helps determine how long the building can last in terms of durability and also the design life.

As you can see below, although the building can last up to 175 years, due to the redevelopment potential of Leederville as an inner city area of Perth, the design life is 70 years. When designing a new building, these factors are very important as they help determine what kind of design is appropriate for an area, for example you wouldn’t want your beautiful new home redeveloped in 20 years time now would you?

Once the design life has been calculated, Henrique goes through the design sketch and specs and adds all of the construction information. It’s a pretty lengthy process as with both a new build or retrofit, we have to account for every material, where and how they have been transported, how the building has been assembled, trade staff and energy systems.

Now that we have all of this information in the LCA, we can see what uses the most amount of carbon. Alex’s pie chart shows that the operational energy is the biggest factor, which is the day to day running of all the appliances and heating and cooling etc. After operational comes the materials and recurring factors which are roughly 18% each.

Instead of leaving it as is, we offer recommendations to best optimise the design and make it as sustainable as possible…

Henrique’s recommendations will help lower the carbon impact of the house through better material selection and construction methods and give you the best return on investment in the long run.
With both retrofits and new build, it’s very important to consider using the most efficient energy resources available. In Australia, solar hot water and solar PV are great options to generate electricty and hot water for day to day living, but there is a huge variety of clever alternatives for each climate zone.

As Alex is a renewable energy engineer, he was very keen to be self sufficient and generate enough electricity to run the house and sell the excess back to the grid. From the Operational Energy chart below, you can see the cost implications of running a home, and using eTool LCA you can calculate how much money your chosen energy system will save you every year.

For a detailed look at the results of Alex’s case study, click here.

If you want to make your home design or retrofit more sustainable, send us your projects details today!