What are the Goals of eToolLCD?
+-

The goals of an eTool LCA are to:

  • Quantify the environmental impacts of the clients design (normal eTool assessments pay particular attention to CO2 equivalent emissions, CO2e)
  • Compare these impacts against a typical ‘business as usual’ benchmark
  • Provide recommendations that will ideally reduce the total impacts of the building
  • Conduct this in a cost effective, auditable and repeatable manner

A typical eTool assessment allows reporting of numerous impacts:

  • Global Warming Potential
  • Primary Energy
  • Water Use
  • Land Use
  • Costs

Most commonly however we only report on Global Warming Potential.

It is the goal of eTool to estimate impacts with enough accuracy to compare different design options. The aim is to be vaguely right not precisely wrong. Estimating impacts to high levels of confidence requires detailed resources. In the case of buildings, this will usually be overshadowed by the influence of occupant behavior on operational impacts, or the actual building life that will deviate significantly from that estimated in this assessment. The assessment does not attempt to predict the affects of future changes to:

  • Grid Power Sources (which hopefully by the time this building is actually nearing it’s design life will be predominantly renewable) Inflation of building materials (for maintenance), labour costs or energy costs
  • The assessment therefore represents a snapshot in time, all else being equal, of the building performance.

How do I learn to use eToolLCD software?
+-

The demand for LCA of the built form is growing rapidly. To ensure we can maximise our current available resources to help accelerate LCD we  encourage you to use our online help videos to learn the basics of eTool.

Of course, face to face training is the best way to learn, and we offer a range of subscription packages. Please register your interest here for the next training session in your nearest capital city.

What documentation is required for a life cycle assessment?
+-

Requirements depend on the stage of the project, see the below table to determine the required, optional and/or not required documentation.  Alternatively refer to this detailed knowledge-base article.

  Design Brief

(eg RIBA Stage 1, Pre-design, Development Approval)

Concept design

(eg RIBA Stage 2, Development Approval,  Greenstar Design Review)

Detailed Design

(eg RIBA Stage 4)

Construction and Handover

(eg RIBA Stage 5 or Greenstar final Submission)

Use

(eg RIBA Stage 7)

Design Brief Information Function/s and Estimated size are all that is required for a Target Setting LCA study. Required Optional Optional Optional Optional
Design Sketches Design sketches may be enough to facilitate the initial detailed LCA study. Required Not required Not required Not required
Structural 3D Structural Model (Revit, IFC, gbXML, Sketchup, ArchiCAD) OR Structural Drawings. Optional Required Required Required
Architectural 3D Architectural model OR Architectural Drawings. Optional Required Required Required
Materials Quantity Take-off, Bill of Quantities OR Cost Plan. Optional Optional Optional Optional
Equipment  If available the intended specs of HVAC systems (Fuel sources, efficeincy / EER / COP, energy recovery systems etc), Lighting fixtures and controls, onsite generation, water heating technology etc. Optional Optional Optional
Energy Modelling Including thermal control, hot water, lighting, vertical transport and other building integrated systems. Not required Optional Preferred Required Required
Water Modelling Building Water Usage Modelling. Optional Optional Optional Optional Optional
Area Schedule Area schedule by Function. Optional Optional Optional Optional Optional
Other Design Docs Hydraulic, Elec. Struct. Engineers drawings and reports. Optional Optional Optional Optional Optional
Use Planning Intended use or occupancy data.  Eg hours, number of occupants etc. Optional Optional Optional Optional Optional
Actual energy and water use From Building Management System, Utility Bills or similar. Required

If you need a free and safe method for transferring large documents try Firefox Send for encrypted document sharing.

What kind of Supporting Documents should I provide?
+-

Some large projects will have hundreds of documents and sometimes it can be difficult to know what a reviewer needs to conduct a proper review. As a reviewer, we also don’t really want to spend hours searching for the correct document to confirm our queries as well. So here are some tips and suggestions for what kind of supporting documents are required to conduct a review of your study for certification.

Please be sure to upload any documents that support your study assumptions and methodology to the design that is being submitted for certification. Navigate to the ‘Docs’ tab in the design you are about to submit for certification and click on ‘+ New Upload’ add documents.

Please ensure that the documents you provide are in commonly accessible formats such as PDFs, common image files, .XLS and/or .CSV wherever possible. We encourage marking up documents as additional explanation of your assessment methodology & assumptions. Zipped files can also be uploaded to save uploading time.

Bear in mind that the main purpose of all supporting documents provided is for the reviewer to gain confidence that your modelling methodology is robust, reliable and sensible. If your documents are inconsistent with the design, vague and unorganised, it would be challenging for the reviewer to check that your assumptions are sound and to feel confident that what you’ve modelled is an accurate reflection of the project.

Please note the following list of most useful documents to provide in order to facilitate the review process. :

  • Floor plans, elevations/cross sections of general layouts, 3D view of the building (PDF format only)
  • If possible, preferably the original itemised cost plan/bill of quantities that show material quantities & units (PDF format only unless original format is already in .xls format in which case any edits/additions made by you should be clearly distinguished)
  • Material (i.e. concrete, reinforcement, steel etc) schedules exported from Revit or other 3D software for material quantities (PDF or spreadsheets only)
  • Structural drawings, although the above docs would be preferable (PDF format only)
  • Spreadsheet demonstrating your own calculations/assumptions with clear references/notes to official sources/docs
    • ideally the spreadsheet should also list the original eTool names of templates used with clear reference to the new template name (if applicable) in the design
    • List of changes/edits made to the templates if any (a pop-up dialog box will ask if you wish to ‘unlock’ the template when you try to make changes to a template that should be noted) and any custom templates that you’ve created;
    • Please take care to add informative filenames/labels/titles to the data/sheets/documents (we can’t read your mind!)
  • Energy/thermal performance simulation reports that demonstrate the energy use of the building (HVAC, hot water system, elevators, lighting, appliances, office workstations, base building loads, tenancy loads etc) if available
  • Services specifications (mechanical & electrical)
  • Emails from engineers/architects that provide specification details (PDF format only)
  • For BREEAM projects, in addition to the above, please upload the Mat01 IMPACT form that is usually filled out by the BREEAM assessor for the submission.
  • For users in non-English speaking countries, although we wish there was an easier way, it would be SUPER helpful if your documents were translated or at least have markups/annotations in English. In worse case scenario, we are able to use Google Translate, however nuances of the language do get lost in the conversion especially when it comes to construction terminology & abbreviations.

Does eToolLCD integrate with 3D CAD packages or BIM?
+-

AutoDesk Revit:  Yes!  We have a fully integrated plugin that transfers data from a Revit model directly into eTool templates.  See this video for more info.
IFC file can be imported in Revit, saved as RVT and then linked with eToolLCD. There might be some limitation in functionality within Revit as some elements will lose their ability to be modified, but this should not be a problem for the Revit to eToolLCD import process.

Others: Partially.  The Building Information Modelling (BIM) industry is still very much in its infancy and so is our integration with it.  Users can currently use the import feature to upload data from a .csv spreadsheet file.  A .csv file can be downloaded from most BIM models and match this quantity information to our library templates to fill the information gaps (assumptions/materials/people/equipment). Most BIM packages can facilitate either a .csv download or an .xml (or .gbxml for IES) download that can be opened in excel and saved as a .csv.  Another option is to obtain a pdf or excel file of the cost plan and convert this to .csv.

Interestingly full BIM integration was one of our number one goals for software development three years ago. It just kept getting surpassed in the priority list by other new features that we introduce.  Here are some reasons why this happens:

  • LCA should be done as early in the design phase as possible (as is now recognised in BREEAM 2018). Most 3D drawings are completed well into the design phase, and we don’t want to lock designers into detail design before getting design feedback. We really only need a very simple line diagram to give us areas of walls, windows, floors etc. In fact for target setting or early RIBA stage 2 analysis, we run a model from a basic accommodation schedule.  There is far more opportunity for improving the outcome if our first LCA model is based on early concept designs than wait until a comprehensive 3D model has been completed, which will inevitably be too late to influence.
  • There is a large amount of information that is entered into the LCA which doesn’t get included in a BIM model.  For example, you might have the carpet area or cladding but do you have the glue, the underlay or the framing, the brackets, mullions/transoms etc and all the people and equipment used to install them? BIM is not generally at that level of detail yet (it will be soon and we will be ready for it).  This can be very simply added using eTools unique template system, and the BIM integration solutions we have and will continue to develop will leverage the eToolLCD template system.
  • We want to make sure we don’t actually end up making the LCA harder. There is a risk that the users spend so much time cleaning up the 3D drawing or BIM model that it would have been quicker for them to have just entered the templates manually.
  • BIM expertise also has a long way to go.  The gap in a single line of a model (which bears no importance for a BIM modeller) could be the difference between a hollow and a solid column having a huge impact on the material quantity!
  • BIM is complicated due to inconsistency in how it is applied and managed around the industry. BIM has all the hallmarks of a typical ‘network’ technology uptake where one system gains all the market share because it’s easiest to then collaborate. We want to make sure we back the winner in terms of exchange protocols and categorisation systems etc so we’ve been pretty happy sitting and waiting to see which systems win the race.
  • The current method for data entry into eTool is actually fast and reliable. At eTool we do a lot of LCAs ourselves, we’re probably the biggest single user of our own software, so we know where the time is spent in conducting an LCA from start to finish. The data entry is actually quite quick (averages less than 20% of the time taken for an LCA).  So technically the potential benefits of 3D or BIM integration are surprisingly minor.

We will complete further BIM integration in the future.  We would really like people to be able to run a 3D package that gives them thermal performance feedback and also full LCA feedback in the same place. Decisions such as triple glazing or increased concrete thermal mass need to be considered in an LCA to truly understand their net environmental benefits or impacts.  This is the goal and we want to achieve that.

BIM Integration using TEMPLATES

Related articles:
Exporting schedules from Revit
Revit Plugin

What LCI Data Sources Does eToolLCD Use
+-

eToolLCD does not rely on a single source of life cycle inventory data.  eToolLCD LCI processes are from the following sources:

  • Australasian LCI data which is provided by Life Cycle Strategies and is predominantly the AusLCI data with an EcoInvent shadow database.
  • Other regional LCI data provided by Life Cycle Strategies for: North America, Europe, UK, New Zealand and Global.
  • IMPACT EN15804 Data which is administered by BRE in the UK. Available for subscribers upon request and payment of the relevant project fee.

In addition to the default data for material, EPDs data can be entered into eTool for further accuracy of your LCAs. Materials manufacturers interested in uploading their own data should contact eTool (it’s a free service, we just need compliant data).

If you are not sure which LCI Source to use, please select the closest one to your region and run a sensitivity analysis on the top materials impacts. Compare different datasets using the LCI Comparison report and cross check against available EPDs in your region.

In relation to cost estimations, eTool has sought industry estimates for materials and energy consumption. This approach leads to significant under-estimation in the cost of highly processed goods (for example, the steel used for concrete reinforcing will cost a lot less than the steel used in a door handle, despite being of a very similar specification, the door handle has been value added significantly compared to the reinforcement. eToolLCD on the other hand will price these two uses of the same steel product equally).

Please get in touch if you need any other information regarding eToolLCD data sources.


Related Articles:
Advantages of using EcoInvent in comparison with ICE database and EPD
eToolLCD Default LCI Regionalisation Methodology

Can I change the LCI source of my project after it's done?
+-

At the moment, the IMPACT and Default LCI sources and templates are kept completely separate and are not interchangeable. Once a Project is created using one LCI source, you will be unable to change it to another LCI source after that. If you need your project to be in the other LCI source, you can only do so by creating a whole new Project in the correct LCI source. This also means that you will need to remodel your whole Design again since there are two separate collections of templates for the two LCI sources and the original Design can’t be translated into the new LCI source.

Our users have previously requested a feature to make it possible to have the two LCI sources within the same Project in eToolLCD, please read more about it here: https://support.etoollcd.com/index.php/idea/use-multiple-lci-sources-in-the-same-project/

What is a "New Template" and "Library Template Quantity"?
+-

Template is a group of elements combined together to streamline the completion of an LCA model using eToolLCD. A concrete slab template for example can be split into materials (concrete, steel reinforcement, timber formwork), equipment (concrete pump) and assembly (concreter). Or if you are using a services template for an Air Conditioning system, a template will contain all materials that make up for the equipment itself (steel, rubber, aluminium) plus the refrigerant gas and estimated operational energy consumption. By combining all elements in one template it makes the model completion quicker and more complete, and the software will proportionally allocate the impacts associated with each element depending on how the template was created using the Unit and the Library Template Quantity.
 
The template Unit can be defined by the user and it can vary from kg, m2, m3, whole office, or any other unit specified by the user. The Library Template Quantity is the basis of the template used to calculate all elements quantities.
 
Example:
Concrete Floor, 100mm slab. 25MPA. 3.8% reo
Library Template Quantity is =1/m2
So, if a concrete slab of 200m2 is required in design, user can enter quantity 200m2 because the ratio of that template is 1/m2.
 
Note: the basis of the template can change to facilitate its creation or to follow an specific bill of quantities. A framed wall template for example can be created on a 2.4m2 basis to match a wall height, so when you add this template to your design, let´s say 1000 m2 of wall, the template quantity entered needs to be 1000/2.4, or 416.67.
 
Templates are available at the eToolLCD library and include years of research from eTool staff and eToolLCD users. Templates will have a globe symbol when they are public and a “thumbs up” symbol when they are validated. More about validated templates here or creating templates.
 
Users should be able to find a template for all elements of a building whether it be substructure footings and pilings, construction types for walls, floors or roofs and internal finishes as well as different building services.

The dataset for my template is old, will this affect my design which is on the latest LCI dataset?
+-

Most of the templates in our library are pretty ‘old’ as in they were created with datasets that are now superseded. However, this is not an issue because the LCI dataset you have specified for your project will over-ride the dataset of any template you add into your design. So, as long as you have the correct dataset selected in your project, all added templates will grab the same data from the back end, even if they were originally created in a different dataset.

Does eTool Have Any Plans to Expand The Template Library?
+-

Based on the hundreds of studies conducted using eToolLCD in the past 9 years of developing and using our template library, we believe that it contains enough templates to meet the cut-off criteria (as described below) for the majority of the most common projects for LCA purposes. Therefore we do not plan to expand the template library significantly.

Nonetheless, eToolLCD enables users to create LCAs that are as accurate and detailed as the user wishes by creating their own custom templates. We encourage the following minimum accuracy principles when creating templates and designs:

  1. Ensure cut off criteria is met (Any flow of >1% mass, >1% energy or with environmental significance and sum of neglected flows not more than 5%)
  2. Ensure the consequence of data quality decisions is considered carefully. Would a particular lack of data quality be likely to change subsequent design decisions based on the LCA model?

If there is no requirement for your study to be highly precise/accurate, we advise our users not to get too bogged down with refining the details. We believe that it is far more important to spend that time figuring out improvement strategies than refining a highly detailed design so that they may be able to make informed decisions/recommendations to influence design changes to best improve the impacts of their project in a timely manner.

For  users who have created custom templates and wish to get them validated and made public for use, please refer to this support post: Validated Templates

How to model cement replacement (Fly Ash or Blast Furnace Slag) in concrete?
+-

It depends on which dataset you are using:

The Australasian LCI has predefined materials with different concrete strength and fly ash or blast furnace slag blends so you can choose the specific material by selecting concrete Mpa and % of cement replacement.
See more details in this example

BRE IMPACT LCI has predefined concrete materials with 30% fly ash content (PFA – pulverised fuel ash) and it also has the fly ash as a material which allows the user to customise the concrete mix and % of cement replacement. The basis to create a concrete template with fly ash in the mix is to add the standard concrete material (m3), subtract the amount of portland cement (kg) entered as a negative number and add the same amount as aggregate/fill GGBS (kg).
See more details in this example

What Functional Units does eToolLCD use?
+-

In order to normalise assessments between building types the environmental and cost impacts are expressed in terms of an applicable functional unit.  Typically eTool uses the following functional units for different project types:

  • Commercial Office – Impacts measured at:
    • Per m2 per year (generally Net Lettable Area is preferred); or
    • Per Occupant Hour
  • Residential buildings – Impacts measured at:
    • Per occupant per year
  • Community, healthcare, retail – Impacts measured at:
    • Per m2 per year (generally Net Lettable Area is preferred); or
    • Per Occupant Hour
  • Industrial buildings – Impacts measured at:
    • Per m2 per year (generally Net Lettable Area is preferred)

All the functional units rely on a prediction of design life, which has a very large effect on their comparable sustainability. Although difficult to predict, eTool uses a methodology aimed at producing fair and repeatable comparisons between building designs. Individual building life spans will deviate significantly from the design lives calculated using this methodology, however the aim is to predict the mean expected life of all buildings with similar characteristics and circumstances. You can read about it in detail here.

Can eToolLCD account for depreciation in carbon intensity of energy?
+-

Yes, simply select a a grid from the electricity grid library that represents the future carbon intensity of the grid you want to model.  We have set up some examples already:

  • 2030 Australian Generic Grid
  • 2050 Australian Generic Grid

If the future grid you want to model doesn’t exist, choose an existing grid with a similar carbon intensity.  Please note that modelling impacts of future grid scenarios may effect your compliance to some standards.  We recommend only running this as a scenario rather than a base case for your LCA.

How do I cancel a Certification Request?
+-

Sometimes accidents happen. Luckily cancelling a certification request is super easy! When your design has been submitted for certification, you’ll find that an ‘Un-Certify’ option is now available under the ‘Action’ button of the design. Click that and your request will be cancelled.

 

How Do I Make a Support Request?
+-

As our user base grows, it becomes more challenging to manage the support requests we receive from our users. In order to ensure that we fairly allocate time to address support requests from all our users, we have adopted a support management platform to help us manage your support requests better and more equitably. Please note that it is company policy not to respond to support requests sent directly to individual personnel. Support requests will only be addressed if they are sent through the support management platform.

If you need to submit a support request, you can do so by sending an email directly to lcdsupport@etoolglobal.com or by clicking on the ‘Request Support’ button on our support site (see below). If you are emailing lcdsupport@etoolglobal.com it is important that you DO NOT include any additional recipients in the email (To., Cc., Bcc. etc) as that may cause an error in the generation of the support request in our system. Please do not submit support requests on behalf of another user. The support request should only be submitted by the user requiring support, because communication will only be directed to the registered email address of the individual that made the support request. This is important because we need to communicate directly with the affected user to ensure that the right support is provided.

Below are a couple of important details that would be very helpful to include when submitting your support request:

  • Link to the Project, Structure, Design, Template or EPD etc that you require assistance with.
  • Screen grabs to illustrate the error or problem you’re experiencing

If your support request was generated successfully, you will receive an email receipt with your support ticket number to notify you that your support request has been received.

ALTERNATIVELY, you can navigate to our Support Site and click on ‘Request Support’ at any time to create a new support request, view the status of or edit/update your ticket(s).