Aussie rating tools embrace life cycle assessment

eTool’s Alex Bruce

By Cameron Jewell

16 April 2014 — Life cycle assessment is ramping up in Australian building sustainability rating tools, with the Urban Development Institute of Australia announcing LCA as part of its EnviroDevelopment tool, and the Green Building Council of Australia releasing stakeholder feedback on draft LCA credits that will now form an integral part of the new Green Star Design & As Built rating tool.

Last year the Green Building Council of Australia announced LCA could be used for Green Star as part of its Green Star 2014 program, with up to eight draft credits currently available to be claimed for material lifecycle impacts and environmental product declarations.

GBCA today [Wednesday] released stakeholder feedback on these draft credits, which will inform updated credits to be released on 28 April as part of the new Green Star – Design & As Built tool.

Following suit, the updated EnviroDevelopment national technical standards now allow LCA to be used as an “alternative compliance” mechanism for quantifying the environmental performance of building materials. Projects rated under the tool can now use an LCA assessment instead of meeting the rating’s “materials” criteria.

Director of Perth-based LCA software developer eTool Alex Bruce acted as an advisor to UDIA on implementing LCA into the rating tool. UDIA accepted the company’s recommendations, with the standards complying with international standards EN15978 and ISO 14044.

Mr Bruce told The Fifth Estate meeting international standards brought credibility to LCA outputs and provided comfort for the client.

“It’s exciting to see another progressive industry body incorporating LCA into their standards for assessing the sustainability of buildings and infrastructure,” Mr Bruce said.

“It demonstrates a growing understanding of LCA’s power and effectiveness in understanding the environmental and economic impacts of the built form and indicates a shift towards performance-based sustainability outcomes.”

More projects using LCA

LCA is increasingly being used in projects to make informed choices on environmental issues and trade-offs inherent in design decisions, and leading to more work for LCA software developers like eTool and Edge Environment. According to Mr Bruce, LCA is being used in a range of industry sectors other than commercial construction, including infrastructure, industrial and land development.

Mr Bruce said there was growing demand for LCA in Australia, and while rating tools’ use of LCA was a great step forward and leading to increased work, currently 90 per cent of the LCA market was outside the Green Star space.

The market included “everyone from developers to mum and dads doing renovations”, he said.

The biggest challenge facing the nascent industry was changing the perception that LCA was just about whether to use fly ash in concrete, Mr Bruce said. LCA covered everything from design to functionality, not simply materials, as many conceptualise.

For example, he said, if you create a building that can accommodate twice as many occupants in the same space, you’ve halved your impact on a per person basis, so LCA software could be used to make powerful decisions during the design phase.

LCA was also a powerful tool when thinking about the building before design had begun. Regarding planning, LCA could be used to predict the best type of development for a space, Mr Bruce said. For example, a detached house built in a high-density suburb would be vulnerable to being knocked down by developers. Building more dense townhouses would help to future proof the asset and improve sustainability outcomes.

Mr Bruce said most houses built do not meet their durability limit, instead being knocked down for new development, and that LCA could help to improve the situation.

While LCA obviously looked at materials, transport and assembly, it wasn’t simply about these elements, he said, and as more people became aware of the potential, demand for LCA would increase.

Perth’s Kings Square uses LCA, and Perth Stadium mandates it

eTool recently finished LCAs on three buildings in the Kings Square project in Perth for Leighton Properties.

Leighton is set to achieve 5 Star Green Star ratings with the help of credits obtained through the Green Star’s draft LCA credits.

The builders for Kings Square 2 and 4, Broad Construction Services, will use LCA to help achieve their Green Star rating target but also to meet LEED certification conditions required for Kings Square 2.

LCA had also been required in the design criteria for $1 billion Perth Stadium, Mr Bruce said.

A Brookfield Multiplex-led consortium was named as preferred bidder by WA Premier Colin Barnett on Tuesday.

More Articles on this Topic