Green Building LCA Credits in BREEAM, LEED, CEEQUAL
We are regularly asked if life cycle assessment (LCA, also known as life cycle analysis) or embodied carbon assessments can be used to score points in green building and construction rating systems such as BREEAM, LEED and CEEQUAL. The short answer is yes!
Now let’s look at the detailed answer…
What is Life Cycle Assessment and Embodied Carbon Assessment?
Let's start with definitions. A whole building life cycle assessment (LCA) considers the full, cradle to grave, impact of a building. This includes the production and transport of materials, on-site construction, operational energy, material maintenance and end of life disposal. It is often used to assess a green building.
There is a difference between whole life carbon assessment and life cycle assessment, as below:
A full LCA requires the use of LCA software and tools whereas a carbon only assessment can often be done in excel.
Green Building Credits in BREEAM with Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) & Embodied Carbon Assessment
Extra credits can be obtained in BREEAM 2014 through LCA. This can help to achieve BREEAM excellent or BREEAM outstanding ratings. These credits are available through the BREEAM section ‘Mat 01 Life cycle impacts’. There are up to 9 points available.
6 BREEAM points can be obtained by assessing the material environmental impacts. This is done with the BREEAM Mat 01 calculator and by reporting the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions (kgCO2e) for each element are also required to be reported based on a 60-year building lifetime. The study may be supported by generic data (non-manufacturer specific) and with independently verified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).
The approach takes a building element approach where the elements that need to be assessed are defined by building type, i.e. offices, retail, industrial…etc. The full list of building elements:
A further 3 innovation credits may be achieved with exemplary level criteria. For these 3 BREEAM credits to be obtained a full life cycle assessment (LCA) needs to be completed using an IMPACT compliant LCA tool.
IMPACT (www.impactwba.com) is an LCA specification and LCA database for buildings, rather than a dedicated software package. At present the LCA tools available that the BRE label as compliant (or developing compliance) with IMPACT are:
So in total up to 9 credits can be achieved (6 BREEAM credits + 3 Innovation BREEAM credits).
Green Building Credits in LEED Certification with Life Cycle Assessment & Embodied Carbon
If you are looking to get LEED certification then whole building life cycle assessment credits are available. In total 3 LCA credits can be obtained in LEED.
The credits can be obtained for new buildings (or portions of buildings) by completing a life cycle assessment of the project’s structure and enclosure and by achieving at least a 10% environmental impact reduction over a baseline building.
The green building LCA credits are far more than just embodied carbon, although embodied carbon is a mandatory environmental impact category. The assessor chooses at least three of six environmental impact categories to assess. The 6 categories are:
As part of the assessment to achieve LEED certification and the LCA credits no impact category chosen as part of the life cycle assessment can increase by more than 5% compared with the baseline building.
Data must be compliant with the international standards on LCA, ISO 14044:2006 to achieve the extra credits for LEED certification.
Green Building Credits in CEEQUAL with Life Cycle Assessment & Embodied Carbon
In CEEQUAL version 5 points are available through embodied carbon assessment or life cycle assessment. In version 5 of CEEQUAL the appropriate section is 8 – Physical Resources, Use and Management.
The sub-section 8.2 is on Embodied Impacts. In this section it defines many sub-areas where the LCA can achieve points. However, in general there are points available for both embodied carbon assessments and for full LCAs. You can achieve in CEEQUAL:
The CEEQUAL section 8.3 Design for Resource Efficiency, includes further points that the LCA can help to achieve.
Reducing the Environmental Impact of a Building or Construction
To score additional points the environmental impact of a building or construction needs to be managed – to be reduced - to achieve a green building. To find the most efficient opportunities for reducing the whole life environmental impact it is recommended to start early in the design process.
In our experience it is often possible to reduce the environmental impact of a building by 10-20% without adding to the build cost (CAPEX). This is achieved by focussing on the quick wins, assessing key design options and using prior-experience.
A 10% environmental impact reduction over a baseline is required for the credits in LEED and would also cover the current environmental impact reduction requirements in BREEAM.
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