LCA Green Building credits

Life Cycle Assessment credits in Green Building certification schemes (LEED, BREEAM, and more)

Library                     Articles                  Blog              Case studies

LCA Green Building credits

 

Can I can use Life Cycle Assessment to get credits for my Green Building certification system? 

We often get asked this question and usually the answer is that yes, you can use LCA for Green Building credits in most certification schemes around the world.

More and more of Green Building certification systems have understood the importance of reducing the emissions of a building over its whole life cycle, which is what the Life Cycle Assessment methodology is for, and they have included credits that require performing building life cycle analysis to calculate the embodied carbon and other environmental impacts as well as Life Cycle Cost.

If you are not sure what Building Life Cycle Assessment is and why it matters, you can read our guide here.

However, this doesn’t mean that all certification schemes approach Life Cycle-based credits in the same way. We have also noticed that sometimes green building professionals are hesitant to try these new credits, as they are not sure what it is required in order to achieve them and how the Life Cycle Assessment methodology applies.

If you would like to find out how LCA Green Building credits keep on reading and find out in detail what they entail.

The basics of LCA credits

 

Let’s start with the basic terminology. When you look at LCA Green Building credits you will likely see mentions of Life cycle assessment (LCA), embodied carbon, carbon footprint, and whole building impact assessment.
Basically all these terms refer to the same thing: analyzing the environmental impacts of a building.

Building Life Cycle Assessment is the methodology used to quantify the environmental impacts of a building over it whole life time. While performing this analysis, the environmental emissions of different stages of building life time are measured, from raw material extraction to materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling.

How are environmental impacts measured? For instance, in the case of global warming potential (also known as carbon footprint or embodied carbon) the equivalence unit is based on carbon dioxide and how much heat 1 kg of CO2 can trap in the atmosphere (radiative forcing). All the other emissions are transformed into CO2 equivalents based on their radiative forcing.
When applied to the design process, Life Cycle Assessment enables design teams to learn already in the design phase how many emissions their building will cause through its whole life time. This way designers can identify the cause of most of the emissions and make some changes to their design in order to reduce them. For example, an architect might select a different insulation material for their design, or make some design choices to increase energy efficiency based on local climate conditions.

To produce standardized results, the methodology needs to follow specific standards, like EN 15978 and ISO 14040/44 standards.

Want to learn more about the relation between carbon footprint and climate change? Read our article here.

Green Building LCA credits in LEED v4

Read our guide on LCA Green Building credits and learn more about LCA for LEED v4.

LEED v4 BD+C, MR credit: Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction, option 4 Whole building life-cycle assessment

 

 

The idea of the credit is to show the reduction of building material life cycle impacts compared to a baseline in at least 3 different impact categories with 10% without increasing the emissions in 3 other categories more than 5%. If the design team can show improvement in all of the 6 categories they will get an additional exemplary credit.
The analysis focuses on building structures and envelope. For instance, all equipment and technical installations are excluded. Additional elements, such as interior nonstructural walls or finishes, may be included at the discretion of the project team but earn no additional credit.

The baseline building must have the same size, function, orientation, and energy performance but other elements may be changed.

Which life cycle stages must be included in the analysis?

The credit is based on Building material LCA following building life-cycle stages according to EN 15804, and it must include these stages: A1-A3 (product upstream and manufacturing emissions), A4 (material transportation), B1-B5 maintenance and material replacements, C1-C4 End of life.

Which environmental impacts does the credit take into account?

The LCA credit for LEED uses all 6 TRACI 2.1 categories. TRACI, short for “Tool for the Reduction and Assessment of Chemical and Other Environmental Impacts”, was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and uses input data consistent with local US conditions.

  1. Global Warming Potential describes how much a product contributes to climate change. When LCA concerns only this impact category, it’s called the carbon footprint
  2. Acidification describes how much product acidifies the environment, resulting e.g. acid rain
  3. Eutrophication describes flow of nutrients to ecosystems, resulting e.g. to algae growth
  4. Ozone Depletion describes damage caused to the Ozone Layer in the stratosphere
  5. Tropospheric Ozone describes the quantity of summer smog causing gases emitted
  6. Depletion of non-renewable energy resources describes how much fossil resources are withdrawn.

The impact assessment methodology (defines units and the method for emission calculations) can be CML (used in EN standards), ReCiPe or TRACI.

What type of data can be used?

Datasets must comply with ISO 14040/44 generic life cycle assessment standards. Datasets that follow ISO 21930 or EN 15804 building product EPD standards are automatically also compliant with ISO 14044. Designers are not required to use product declaration of the exact product that they are planning to buy but technically similar or generic average datasets for building materials may be used.

What is the building’s service life standard?

The building service life is fixed at 60 years.

Which software tools can be used for LEED?

USGBC has changed their policy and does not verify tools anymore. Therefore, only the tools that have been verified years ago may be mentioned as officially verified. Other tools will be accepted via submitting a first project. However, a verification against the required standards can also show compliancy. For instance, One Click LCA has been successfully used for both LEED v3 and LEED v4 so it has already been verified. You can read more about it here.
Want to look at LCA credits for LEED v4 more in depth? You can read our guide to the Building Life-Cycle Impact Reduction credit (MRc1) in LEED v4 here.

 Green Building LCA credits in BREEAM schemes

One Click LCA is the highest rated LCA software for BREEAM

BREEAM Mat 01 Life cycle impacts credit and other Material credits

 

In the case of BREEAM the LCA related credits have clearly been growing in importance over the past years. Depending on the scheme , LCA and LCC related credits can now provide you up to 20 credits.
However, to understand how LCA is used in BREEAM we’ll have to take a closer look at different BREEAM schemes as they have different requirements.

The idea of the Mat 01 LCA credit is to perform a high quality whole building LCA analysis. In other words, the better the estimated quality of the analysis the more credits you’ll be able to achieve. The quality and credit potential are defined by two factors: The quality of the LCA tool and the assessment scope which means the scope of different building elements included to calculation. The quality of the LCA tool defines 70 % of the credit potential and the element scope remaining 30 %.

 

BREEAM Intl (2013/2016), BREEAM Espana and BREEAM NOR New Construction schemes

LCA software for LCA Green Building credits worldwide LCA software for BREEAM Spain LCA software for BREEAM NOR

Which life cycle stages must be included in the analysis?

The BREEAM LCA credits are based on Whole building LCA according to EN 15978 standards. The life cycle stages required are A1-A3 (product upstream and manufacturing emissions), but tools that take into account the full life cycle including stages A (product and construction process stage), B (use phase) & C (end of life) get the highest quality credits.

Which environmental impacts does the credit take into account?

The impact category that must be included is Embodied carbon (carbon footprint). Other impact categories may be included and the scope will impact the tool quality rating. The best quality tools include embodied water or waste + at least two other impact categories.

What type of data can be used?

The preferred data sources are EN 15804 EPDs. Other sources may be used but that will have an impact on the tool’s quality credits. Generic average datasets may be used and their use does not impact quality if a verified local compensation methodology is in place.

What is the building’s service life standard?

The building service life is fixed at 60 years.

Which software tools can be used for BREEAM?

Tools have to be verified by BRE and the credit potential is calculated by Mat 01 calculator. Each of the schemes and version have their own calculator that contains the scheme-specific material scope and total credit potential.

 

 

One Click LCA has been approved for all of the schemes discussed here with the highest potential quality rating so by choosing our software you have already earned 70 % of the credit potential. As the limit for the maximum credits is 85% this means that you’ll only have to achieve 15% by adding different building elements. In practice this means that you’ll have some freedom to choose which of the optional building elements you wish to include in the calculations and you’ll still be able to achieve the maximum credits.

Mat 01 Life cycle impacts credits in different BREEAM systems

BREEAM SCHEME Credit name Credits
BREEAM Int’l NC 2016 Mat 01 5 +1
BREEAM Int’l NC 2013 Mat 01 6 +1
BREEAM NOR NC 2016, Option Life cycle impacts * Mat 01 2 +1 (+2)
BREEAM ES NC 2015 Mat 01 6 + 1
BREEAM ES Vivienda Mat 01 5 +1

*  BREEAM NOR also includes another life cycle assessment based option on Mat 01 definition which is “Reduction of Green House gas emissions”, worth 2 credits. The idea of this option is to be able to reduce the life cycle impacts of the building compared to a baseline. 

Want to learn more about BREEAM LCA credits? Read our guide here.

 

BREEAM Retrofit and Fit-out

BREEAM Int’l RFO 2015  Mat 01 6 + 1
BREEAM Int’l RFO 2014  Mat 01 6 + 1
The idea of the Retrofit and Fit-out credit is the same as for the new construction schemes: to perform a high quality LCA. The higher the quality of the assessment the more credits are available. An additional step is required to show compliancy.
No comparative improvement in performance is required but design teams will have to write a short qualitative statement explaining how and at what stages of the design the tool was used and how it helped (or did not help) steer the design process to mitigate environmental impacts, giving examples of specific changes to the building design/specification that resulted. A good way to show the progress is often to compare a few different design options.

BREEAM UK new construction (2011 /2014)
Non-domestic schemes

LCA software for LCA Green Building credits in BREEAM UK.
The idea of the credit is to perform a life-cycle analysis for the building and to analyze the results to find ways to optimize environmental impacts.
No comparative improvement in performance is required but design teams will have to write a short qualitative statement explaining how and at what stages of the design the tool was used and how it helped (or did not help) steer the design process to mitigate environmental impacts, giving examples of specific changes to the building design/specification that resulted (same as in RFO).

 

Often a good way to show the progress is to compare a few different design options. Results have to be reported in specified way separately for each data point.

Which life cycle stages must be included in the analysis?

The BREEAM UK LCA credits are based on Whole building life-cycle assessment according to EN 15978 (the British version BS EN 15978). The life cycle stages that must be included are: Building life-cycle stages A (product and construction process stage), B (use phase) & C (end of life) according to EN 15978 but their content and detail of results may vary between tools.

Which environmental impacts does the credit take into account?

The impact category that must be included is Embodied carbon (carbon footprint). Other impact categories may be included, and all the results obtained with the tool have to be listed.

What type of data can be used?

You will have to use the IMPACT database or database verified to be equivalent. Generic average datasets may be used for material analysis.

What is the building’s service life standard?

The building service life is fixed at 60 years.

Which software tools can be used for BREEAM UK?

The tool has to be verified to be IMPACT Compliant or IMPACT Equivalent. One Click LCA offers both options.The term IMPACT comes from BRE’s IMPACT database that is an average British building life cycle assessment database according to EN standards.

 

  • IMPACT Compliant tools use that database and its rules for the calculations for the calculations.
  • IMPACT Equivalent tools have been verified to have equivalent quality compared to the IMPACT Compliant tool. IMPACT Equivalent tools may provide manufacturer specific datasets based on Environmental product declarations.

One Click LCA has both an IMPACT compliant and an IMPACT equivalent tool:  The IMPACT Equivalent tool uses material manufacturer specific environmental product declarations while the IMPACT Compliant one uses the IMPACT database.

Additionally, the IMPACT Equivalent tool focuses on the mandatory credit scope of the materials’ embodied carbon impacts, providing easily understandable results, while the IMPACT Compliant tool will include a comprehensive life cycle assessment with multiple environmental impact categories and very detailed results.

Green Building LCA credits in other certification schemes

LCA credits are used in other Green Building certification schemes, like CEEQUAL and national certifications like DGNBDK-DGNB, Energie Carbone, and others.  We will update this article with more certification schemes and a breakdown of the LCA credits in all of them.

Want to learn more about LCA credits? Join our of our free webinars!

Want to learn more about LCA?