Media_Release

eToolLCD to become IMPACT Compliant

Australia’s own eToolLCD is poised to become one of the first Phase 2 tools to comply with IMPACT LCA methodology since its release in October 2013.

Perth-based life cycle assessment (LCA) consultants and software providers eTool, are making fast headway in embedding additional functionality into their world leading LCA app, to enable compliance with IMPACT.

Developed by BRE, a world leading building science centre based in the UK, IMPACT is a specification and database for software developers to incorporate into their tools to enable consistent Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC).

When completed, users will be able to enjoy eToolLCD’s unrivalled LCA functionality for the design of buildings and infrastructure, while accessing BRE’s highly regarded LCA method and data.

Daniel Doran of BRE said, “BRE is delighted that eTool are joining others by implementing IMPACT into their software. This will ultimately increase the uptake of high quality building LCA and will lead to lower impact buildings”.

Alex Bruce of eTool said, “IMPACT Compliance means eToolLCD users can earn two credits in BREEAM New Construction UK and up to 6 credits in BREEAM International – we see this as a great way to promote eToolLCD into the UK and European market”.

This move will make eToolLCD one of few life cycle assessment applications in the world compliant with the IMPACT LCA method. 

 

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Please note: High resolution images and interviews are available on request.

Media contact:

Portia Odell
eTool Marketing Communications Coordinator
08 9467 1664
portia@etool.net.au
www.etool.net.au

 

About eTool

eTool is a world leading life cycle software consultancy that optimises building design for lower environmental impact and high performance. Utilising our unique software eToolLCD®, we work with architects, engineers and developers to measure and improve the life cycle impacts of buildings, surpassing industry standards. eToolLCD® makes sustainable development easy to achieve and cost-effective for all size projects, from residential and commercial building to land development and infrastructure.

For more information, please visit www.etool.net.au. You can also follow us on Twitter, join us on Facebook and LinkedIn for the latest eTool news, or read our blog.

IMPACT

IMPACT is a method and materials database for the implementation of building LCA and life cycle costing into building information modelling tools (BIM). For more information see www.IMPACTwba.com.


LCA

Life Cycle Assessment is the study of environmental impacts that occur due to a products life including raw material extraction, transport, manufacturing, installation, maintenance and repair, demolition and waste processing, reuse and recycling.


BRE

BRE is a world leading building science centre that generates new knowledge through research. This is used to create products, tools and standards that drive positive change across the built environment.  BRE helps its government and private sector clients meet the significant environmental, social and economic challenges they faces in delivering homes, buildings and communities. BRE is owned by the BRE Trust, a registered charity. The Trust uses the profits made by the BRE companies to fund research and education that advances knowledge of the built environment www.bre.co.uk.

 

 

 

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The Team Goes Rock Climbing

In May, the team went to Alex Bruce’s family farm for a relaxing weekend of campfires and tree planting. In June, Richard Haynes decided to mix it up and took the team for an outdoor rock climbing excursion. The team was relentless and everyone got to the top, even if it meant getting a few cuts along the way.

Check out the photos below:

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“Is there such thing as a sustainable building?” Event Wrap-up

Is there such thing as a sustainable building?

While it’s something that we are all striving for, are we able to define exactly what a “sustainable building” is? Is “sustainable” even the right word? Is it even possible to achieve? Is it something that we will ever agree on? And do we even need to agree to get a good outcome?

Alex Bruce facilitated this interesting conversation at one of our Cool. Smart. Innovative. sessions earlier this year. To guide the process, he broke it into sections:

1) What does sustainability mean?

To Alex’s surprise, everyone agreed on the definition of what sustainability meant: “a good quality of life for everything on the planet without compromising the ability for future generations to enjoy the same quality of life”. It’s interesting that everyone agreed on this point because it proves there has been a paradigm shift from the previous definitely of sustainable development which focused on only human quality of life, rather than the whole planet. Sustainability used to also be discussed as just “sustaining” or surviving, but now there seems to be agreement that it’s about prosperity.

2) Breaking sustainability into categories

This was a bit more difficult to narrow down but a consensus was reached that environment/ecosystem was most important as without it, we don’t have a society or economy.

3) Challenges & Solutions

It was discussed that in order to best achieve sustainable buildings, we need to put quantifiable targets of budgets around the things that can be quantified (carbon, water usage, etc.) One of the ways in which to do this, is to conduct a life cycle assessment. It was noted by the group that one of the biggest challenges to achieving sustainability on a personal level was the courage required to remove yourself from the social norm and stop consuming the things we are told we need to consume to be happy.

It was a fantastic night with great input by everyone. Thanks to all of you who participated.

If you missed this session but would like to stay informed or attend our next talk, sign up to our newsletter.

 

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eToolLCD Advanced Training: Assessor Lite

Want to make the leap to become an LCA professional? 

eTool is hosting an Assesor Lite training over the course of two half days where participants will gain a hands-on understanding of life cycle assessment and eToolLCD. The training will be held at the eTool office as well as in a webinar format to acccomodate those outside of Australia.

Course Overview
eTool’s eToolLCD Assessor Lite training is designed to provide a a comprehensive understanding of of LCA methodology as well as a basic understanding of how to conduct an Life Cycle Assessment using eToolLCD. In this training you will be guided through your own practice project through to “certification” level to ensure a full understanding of the concepts and software. Upon completion of eToolLCD Assessor Lite training, you will have firsthand experience conducting an LCA as well as an overall undestanding of life cycle assessment of the built form. Ongoing support will be provided through your next project as required, at mutually agreeable times, to get your project to “certification” level. Upon completion of this second “certified” project, you will be awarded ”Assessor Lite” accreditation.

Date: Monday, 21 July & Friday, 25th July
Time: 9:00am – 1:00pm AWST (Australian Western Standard Time)
Location: 40-44 Pier Street, Perth WA 6000
Webinar: Attendees will be sent a GoToMeeting login the week of the event
Your trainer: Richard Haynes – eTool Co-Founder and Lead Software Development
Cost: $2,200 (incl GST)*

*This cost covers the 2-day training as well as one “certified” project.

For more information on eToolLCD Assessor Lite training and subscription packages, click here.

Content

Day 1: Monday, 21st July

  •  Aims of eToolLCD Software, eToolLCD History
  •  LCA Basics
  •  eTool Project Tree (including impact categories)
  •  Entering and Editing
    • Project
    • Buildings (with explanation of design life algorithm)
    • Design
  • Templates:
    • Templates Library
    • Viewing, adding cloning and creating Library Templates
    • Adding Templates to Designs
    • Custom Templates (within a design)
  • Low Carbon Design Principles and Demonstrations:
    •  Building Design Life and Effect on Embodied Impacts
    • Low Carbon Materials (and the thermal mass trade off)
    • Assembly, transport and travel impacts
    • Recurring impacts (maintenance)
    • Operational Energy Efficiency
    • Renewable Energy

Day 2: Friday, 25th July

  •  Overview of Advanced Features
    • Nested Templates
    •  eTool Expressions Wizard
    • Custom grids, equipment and materials
    • Cloning a Design for Improvements or Scenarios
    •  LCA Reporting
    •  Submitting for Certification
    • The Future for eToolLCD Software

 

Media_Release

Project Achieves 6 Star Green Star Rating Using eToolLCD Software

eTool helps Umow Lai achieve a 6 star outcome through the Green Star LCA Innovation Challenge

One of the first projects to have successfully utilised the Green Star Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Innovation Credits, The University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning redevelopment recently obtained a challenging 6 star Green Star Rating.

Using eTool’s Life Cycle Assessment software eToolLCD, leading Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) consultants Umow Lai obtained five innovation points that substantially contributed towards the achievement of such an impressive Green Star rating.

An EN 15978 compliant Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) report was also produced as part of the stringent Green Star requirements for the LCA Innovation Credit. EN15978 is the European Standard for assessment of environmental performance of buildings and the LCA report produced for the University of Melbourne Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning redevelopment is one of only a handful reports of its kind in Australia.

“It was great to be able to put together the full Life Cycle model of the design and get a detailed understanding of the embodied and operational environmental impacts across a range of metrics. Using eTool made what would have been a very complex process manageable and added valuable information to the project,” said Richard Stokes from Umow Lai.

While Umow Lai is one of the first adopters of the LCA Innovation Credit, there are over eight designs currently utilising eToolLCD for improvements in Green Star performance as the demand for LCA continues to advance.

eTool Co-founder and Business Development Director, Alex Bruce said: “eToolLCD’s ability to provide a complete picture of a designs environmental impacts and enable project teams to make quantifiable improvements has assisted in ensuring it’s the LCA tool of choice.”

With over fours years of experience producing LCA’s of buildings ranging from residential to infrastructure and an impressive track record for software development, eTool is a global leader in life cycle assessment of the built form.

“eTool prides itself on innovation and staying ahead of the curve, so we’ve worked hard to ensure our software is EN15978-compliant, something few other software providers in the world can claim,” said Richard Haynes, eTool Co-founder and Software Development Director.

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Please note: High resolution images and interviews are available on request.

Media contact:

Portia Odell
eTool Marketing Communications Coordinator
08 9467 1664
portia@etool.net.au
www.etool.net.au

 

 

Beautiful sapling.

eTool’s Tree Planting Weekend at the Bruce Family Farm

Here at eTool, we’re passionate about reducing carbon dioxide emissions and making the world a better place. We also like to go out in nature and get our hands dirty from time to time and we decided to combine the two and head out to the eTool Co-Founder Alex Bruce’s family farm for a weekend. The team enjoyed a documentary under the stars and got up bright an early the next morning to plant some native saplings in an area of the farm experiencing some erosion. The eTool kiddies had a fantastic time getting their hands dirty… and so did the adults!

 

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Future Grid Sensitivity

Context

The standard assumption eTool makes when conducting an LCA is applying the current emission factor of the electricity grid for the specific region over the life of the building. While renewable energy source do not currently make up a large percentage of the energy grid, the cost of renewable technologies has fallen dramatically over recent years. The Australian government also has a legally binding obligation to reduce its emissions by 5% on 1990 levels, under the Kyoto protocol. The Australian government has also committed to an 80% reduction by 2050.

If the decreasing cost of renewable energy trend continues and becomes competitive with coal and gas, the market will naturally shift away from fossil fuels, particularly if fossil fuel subsidies recede. There is also a small but growing consumer demand for more ethical electricity tariffs. This shift of energy sources into the electricity grid opens a potential for a change in the way grid emissions are calculated with life cycle assessment.

Modelling Decarbonisation

Presently in eTool we assume that the grid fuel mix remains at today’s levels for the life of the building. Whilst this is a good conservative position, and drives the right behaviour in terms of energy efficiency, it may divert some focus from other areas of the building, which may be more important if a more realistic future scenario of grid electricity impacts are used.

In response, we have created two other grid emission factors: a 2050 grid and a 2030 grid. The 2050 grid assumes an 80% reduction in the current grid intensity. The 2030 grid takes the average grid intensity over the next 40 years, assuming a linear move towards 80% renewable generation by 2050. The modelled reduction in CO2e intensity is achieved by:

  • Eliminating the most carbon intensive fuels from the current Australian electricity mix and replacing these with a combination of renewable sources, and
  • Increasing the thermal efficiency gas powered generators from 34% up to 50% (implementation of combined cycle turbines)

The fuel mixes and assumed thermal efficiencies for the different grids modelled is shown in Table 1. There are a few flaws in this method that we need to declare: Firstly, the scenarios assume reductions in CO2e intensity of tailpipe emissions only. It does not account life cycle emissions for electricity, which includes impacts associated with fuel extraction and transport upstream from the power plant as well as downstream impacts associated with transmission and distribution. Secondly, if we accepted that this would be enough to meet the 80% reduction in emissions required, the demand for electricity (or energy in general) could not increase. If there is an increase in demand, we would need to further reduce the intensity of Australian emissions and the target is on absolute GHG pollution, not pollution per dollar of GDP, per capita or per kWh. Nevertheless, we think the approach is suitable for the purposes of illustration and discussion, which is the goal of this technical article.

table

Table 1: Modelled Grid Fuel Mixes

Life Cycle Impacts of Residential Buildings

The graph below illustrates how the lower grid scenarios impact on a single residential dwellings life cycle emissions.  Proportionally, embodied emissions have a much larger impact than operational as the grid de-carbonises.

annualised GHG

 

Reconsidering Design Decisions

Generally speaking, there will be a move toward electric based solutions as the grid de-carbonises and the impacts of electricity become competitive with gas. A few recommendations that we typically apply to residential dwellings are shown for the different grid scenarios below.

Design decisions

In this instance, the annual CO2e savings associated with PV have more than halved in the 2050 scenario. Savings from embodied impacts in materials become much more important as the grid decarbonises and materials make up a larger proportion of a buildings CO2e. Moving to fly-ash concrete or replacing carpets gives greater savings than installing a gas hot water unit, which under todays grid scenario would ordinarily provide significantly more.

It’s important to note is that while the transition to a low carbon grid will likely occur incrementally over the coming years, the embodied impacts of the materials are locked in from the day of manufacture. Providing that the grid does decarbonise, material choice can be considered to be equally as important as operational energy, especially when dealing with buildings with a long design life.

What about the gas grid?

We have yet to add a CO2e intensity for future gas grids but watch this space.  There is potential for a reduction in the gas grid emission factor with more input into the gas grid from landfill collection and anaerobic digestion. Then again, potential impacts of shale gas fracking will also need to be considered.

The technologies that make up a dwellings services (cookers, boilers, heat pumps etc.) typically have a lifespan of no more than 20 years. Our approach at eTool remains to recommend the lowest carbon solution based on today’s grids with the assumption/hope that they will be replaced with whatever the lowest carbon solution happens to be in 20 years time.

The future may also bring an appropriate price on carbon and studies show that $150+/tonne reflects the true cost of climate change (social and economic cost), which will drive behavior. For example, a gas hot water system is significantly lower in carbon emissions today but in 20 years time when it is replaced, the electricity grid may have decarbonised such that a heat pump is now the low carbon option. Perhaps the occupant will be further incentivised by the price of a renewable electricity grid versus finite gas with a high carbon price.

What about Materials Future Impacts?

The manufacturing of some materials will decarbonise over the coming years, such as the use of biomass in the heating processes in cement production. However, for a building constructed today, the key structural elements of a building such as the impacts associated with the concrete or steel are locked in on the day of construction. The recurring impacts of replacing high carbon materials like plasterboard and carpet may also decrease as the economy de-carbonises. For some elements, this may be due simply to using renewable electricity in the manufacturing plant. For others it may require something more innovative such as developing sheep food that does not make them burp and fart.

There is a high level of uncertainty associated with future impact intensities for the system processes and materials making up a buildings use phase. For example, as Australia’s economy de-carbonises, the impacts associated with energy inputs, maintenance, replacement, repair, water use, and transport will likely decrease (particularly with regard to global warming potential). This has not been accounted for in the analysis. One could potentially model the effects of this parameter on GWP alone as we do know Australia’s current commitments to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, however, even this is very speculative as we do not know how the economy will decarbonise (through efficiency, reduced growth, alternative fuels, renewable energy sources or other mechanisms). The building energy inputs, and the fuel mix for manufacturing products used through the building life span has therefore been assumed constant, and set at today’s values throughout the modelled life cycle of the building.

What else might change?

Australia has been seeing first-hand the effects of climate change for a number of years. The meteorology department has confirmed that 2013 was the hottest year on record experiencing a greater number and intensity of heat waves than ever before. Even if global CO2e emissions are kept within the threshold for a 2 degree global rise in temperature, we will still need to adapt to the climatic changes that have resulted from our current emissions. The Garnet Institute makes the following predictions regarding changes to climate in Perth assuming no mitigation:

garaut

-          4 degree rise in average temperature in Perth,

-          56% increase in number of days over 35 degrees by 2070

-          15% – 45% reduction in rainfall in Perth by 2070

-          15 – 65% increase in number of days with “Extreme fire risk”

 

In the best case scenario with emissions stabilising at 450 ppm, there is still a 2 degree rise in average temperature across most of Australia. The reality is that we have already passed 400ppm and 550ppm (3 degree rise) is realistic. To adapt to these changes we will see a greatly increased use of air conditioning across all building types to maintain thermal comfort.

 

-Researched and written by Pat Hermon 

 

Research Sources

  1. http://www.therenewableenergycentre.co.uk/solar-heating/
  2. http://www.home-energy-metering.com/solar-thermal-energy.html
  3. http://www.garnautreview.org.au/chp5.html

 

 

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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.

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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.