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BREEAM 2018 Mat 01: The Business Case

Opportunities, challenges, and the business case for LCA credits in BREEAM UK NC 2018

BREEAM has given more weight to LCA in 2018, here’s why

When BREEAM UK NC 2018 rolled out, there was a lot of concern about how it represented a big change from previous versions, and more specifically, how it overhauled the Mat 01 LCA credits. Before we address these changes and how they represent a business opportunity, and not only a headache for assessors, we should talk about why Life Cycle Assessment is a significant credit in BREEAM.

BREEAM is a sustainability assessment method that has been created and developed with the goal of improving the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of building projects worldwide and encourage the construction industry to embrace a more advanced and scientifically sound approach to green and healthy buildings.

In order to do so, it is essential to include Analyse de Cycle de Vie. Life Cycle Assessment, or LCA, is a scientific methodology assessing the environmental impacts of a product, process, or service through its whole lifetime, from extraction of raw materials to disposal and reuse. When we talk about Building LCA, we talk about assessing the environmental footprint of the building based on a variety of indicators, which include global warming potential and many others. The main strength of LCA is that it objectively measures the potential for environmental damage a building might cause and allows the designers to find alternative solutions and reduce the impacts as much as possible.

With buildings being a significant contributor to climate change and the sword of Damocles of the last IPCC report upon our heads, it is clear we need to leverage all possible tools to achieve carbon neutrality and reduce carbon emissions of our building projects. BREEAM has introduced LCA in their schemes since 2011 and new schemes acknowledge its importance by giving more weight to LCA credits than ever before. Moreover, as LCA becomes more and more common-place and tools easier to use, BREEAM has felt more comfortable making it an essential part of any assessment.

This is especially relevant in the case of BREEAM UK NC 2018, which has raised the number of credits available for Mat 01 to 10, making it a very desirable and cost-efficient option. These new credits completely replace the Green Guide and mark the beginning of a new way of dealing with Materials credits.

The new approach to Materials credits

The rationale behind the new approach to Materials credits in BREEAM 2018 is to encourage tackling materials already in the Concept Design stage, with the goal of making design optioneering and improvements easier.

  1. Comparison of the LCA results with a benchmark during Concept Design and Technical Design (only
    offices, retail and industrial buildings)
  2. Comparison of the LCA results with a benchmark during Technical Design (only offices, retail and industrial buildings)
  3. Comparing 2-4 concept-level superstructure options during Concept Design
  4. Comparing 2-3 detailed superstructure options during Technical Design
  5. Comparing 6 concept-level substructure and hard landscaping options (minimum two of each)
  6. Comparing 3 concept-level core building services options (an exemplary credit)
  7. Aligning LCA and Life-Cycle Costing for the options (an exemplary credit)
  8. Third-party verification of the accuracy of the LCA work (an exemplary credit) (also awarded for a practitioner with sufficient experience)

Sequencing and credits 

The main objections to LCA credits, debunked

Even if Building LCA is an opportunity to reduce environmental impacts, it has also been perceived as a complex endeavor and a difficult credit to achieve. This is due to the technical nature of LCA calculations, and the fact that LCA is still not well known among construction professionals. However, the tide is turning, and more and more design professionals and construction specialists are aware of the potential of Building Life Cycle Assessment, and how it can be made easy with the use of a specialized tool.

What are the main worries specifically related to Mat 01 credits in BREEAM UK NC 2018 and how to address them?

Can Mat 01 credits be cost-efficient?Buy Life Cycle Assessment software online

The issue of cost is the first obstacle assessors feel might negatively impact the adoption of LCA. Performing an LCA to achieve these credits requires an investment in terms of both money and time and that might be perceived as a hurdle by the client. However, when you assess the investment required in relation to the number of credits that can be achieved, it is clear that these are cost-efficient credits. Moreover, performing an LCA can also help to reduce material costs over the whole lifetime and it is easy to scale up to include it in all projects. Finally, these credits can be cheaper while also promoting carbon reduction and building sustainability.

What is the benefit of performing LCA in the design stage? Buy Life Cycle Assessment software online

If materials can be changed post-planning, what is the benefit of performing an LCA earlier? In fact, performing a Life Cycle Assessment in the early stages of the design is the best way to ensure the results can be used for effective decision-making and to improve the project’s outcome. By accessing the data early, it is easier to implement changes that will lead to lower environmental impacts and to test different options both in terms of material and design choices. Moreover, if you achieve these credits in the design stage, they will be awarded without changes in the final stage, as these are analyses the construction process cannot invalidate. Performing LCA early is a valuable opportunity, not a setback.

Aren’t assessors usually appointed in a later stage?  Buy Life Cycle Assessment software online

To achieve the highest potential of Mat 01 credits in BREEAM 2018, LCA analyses should be contacted in the early design stage. However, it is still not commonplace to appoint assessors in the design phase of the project and there needs to be a significant effort in terms of education to ensure that project managers and investors are aware of what needs to be done in order to fully leverage the potential of LCA. In the long-term, this shift towards pursuing LCA in the earlier phase will result in more sustainable buildings and bigger embodied carbon reduction savings and these credits cannot be invalidated by choices made in later stages, making them a safe bet for any project.

Isn’t LCA too complex and time-consuming?  width=

It is true that Life Cycle Assessment used to be performed only by scientists, and that it was a complicated process requiring weeks, and even months, to complete. However, this is not the case anymore. Thanks to automated import, LCA can be done in hours. Furthermore, the development of tools to perfect BIM models for LCA purposes or to instantly develop baseline buildings and achieve concept stage decarbonization makes Building Life Cycle Assessment easier and faster than ever before. In this regard, One Click LCA is the leading Building LCA software and the only one able to deliver all parts of the Mat 01 credit for BREEAM 2018.

In conclusion, LCA credits in BREEAM 2018 represent at the same time a challenge to the status quo and an opportunity both in terms of cost-efficient credits and embodied carbon reduction. As the market is moving toward carbon neutrality and increasingly stringent climate action goals, the request for Building LCA will only increase over time and become an even bigger part of certifications, rating schemes, and regulations worldwide. If you are curious about the current state of embodied carbon in regulations worldwide and how BREEAM 2018 represents one of the most successful efforts to address it, you can read our recently published research, Embodied Carbon Review.

Download our infographic on Mat 01 for BREEAM and discover the 8 essential facts about LCA for BREEAM.

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