Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) enables us to address the environmental impact of buildings, materials, and construction methods.
Many of our assessment techniques are concerned with operation carbon – those emissions created by the building in use. But by analysing the embodied carbon – those hidden emissions within a construction site – we can fully evaluate the environmental impact of a product or process throughout its entire life cycle. This includes all stages from raw material extraction and manufacturing, to use and disposal.
Life Cycle Assessment in BREEAM
The latest version of BREEAM, UK New Construction 2018, includes a number of new LCA-related credits, such as the use of low-carbon materials and the assessment of operational energy and water use. The Mat 01 credit in BREEAM requires technical teams to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment demonstrating that the full environmental impact of the building has been considered.
Life Cycle Assessment is becoming increasingly critical for commercial and public sector clients who are seeking certification for their projects – under BREEAM 2018 approximately 10% of the credits can be awarded for carrying out a LCA at the correct times.
We can walk you through the process and provide the required reports and calculations for your BREEAM assessor. Using approved software tools we can help you gain the early credits at concept design / pre-planning and then revisit the LCA at technical design stage. We can also work with your team to see whether construction materials can be changed to reduce embodied carbon emissions.
BREEAM credits are awarded under Mat 01 (Environmental impacts from construction products – Building Life Cycle assessment) as follows:
- Concept Design – Up to five credits and one exemplary
- Technical Design – Up to two credits and one exemplary
- Plus an additional credit for alignment of LCC (Life Cycle Costing) and LCA
The LCA can be divided into four phases:
- Goal and scope definition
- Inventory analysis – this involves collecting data on the inputs and outputs of the product or construction method being assessed.
- Impact assessment phase – evaluating the environmental impacts of the product or construction method, using a variety of impact categories
- Interpretation phase – reviewing the results of the LCA and drawing conclusions about the environmental performance of the product or construction method
How does Life Cycle Assessment benefit us?
- Identifying opportunities for environmental improvement: LCA can help to identify the stages in the life cycle of a building or building material that have the greatest environmental impacts. This information can then be used to make more sustainable choices about design, materials, and processes.
- Comparing different options: LCA can be used to compare the environmental impacts of different building designs, materials, and construction processes. This information can help decision-makers to choose the most sustainable option.
- Meeting regulatory requirements: In some countries, LCA is required for certain types of buildings or building materials. Conducting an LCA can help to ensure that a project meets these requirements.
Life Cycle Assessment in the UK
The concept of life cycle assessment is a relatively new one for developers and designers in the UK, but finally we are seeing momentum behind proper analysis of carbon beyond operational emissions. We of course are seeing a growing demand for more sustainable buildings, and BREEAM is a widely used rating scheme in the UK that incorporates LCA into it’s assessment criteria.
The Green Building Council’s Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap was created by a range of industry voices in response to this context and sets out a clear trajectory for industry and government as we work towards a net zero future.
Local authorities are also taking the lead – the Greater London Authority (GLA) now encourages Whole Life Carbon Assessments for major developments and mandates them for referable schemes. WLC assessment is a broader assessment that also factors in the predicted and in-use operational carbon emissions.