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)

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  1. […] we measure full impacts over the building life cycle from cradle-cradle and have numerous other environmental indicators that help measure environmental performance beyond Global Warming […]

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