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)


(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 eTool 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 eTool. 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 eTool 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 eTool 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

How Do I Change The Impact Indicators or Functional Unit Display in My Design?

By default, all new Designs created in eTool will display the impact results in GWP (kgCO2eq). However, you can easily change this to display any environmental indicator that’s available in eToolLCD at any time in the Design by doing the following:

If you want to change the functional unit for the impact results, you can also do that by clicking on the little cog-wheel next to the Impact Summary input. You can also change the environmental indicator this way as well.




Why Can't I Add Certain Templates to My Design?

In eToolLCD, we have 2 main LCI group/datasets.

  • eTool Default


The two LCI groups are very different from each other. They have their own set of materials and equipment/people list and can not be used interchangeably within the same project. Therefore, when adding a template to a Design, you won’t be able to see or add a template that is different from the LCI group that you’ve defined for your project.

The ‘BRE IMPACT’ dataset is specifically for BREEAM assessments whereas the ‘eTool Default’ dataset is suitable for all other rating schemes. Please pay attention to the ‘LCI Group’ of the template when you’re reviewing templates in the library to know which templates will be available for your design.

If you have created your Project/template using the wrong dataset or if you wish to switch LCI groups, please refer to this support post.

eTool Default – LCI Sources

Under the ‘eTool Default’ LCI group, there are a number of sub- LCI Sources as per the list below:

  • Australasian
  • European
  • Global
  • New Zealand
  • North American
  • United Kingdom

These LCI Sources relate to the location of the project and provide more refined LCI data for industry average transportation/shipping distances for various construction materials.

eTool Default – Electricity, Gas, Water & Waste Water Grids

The eTool Default group also has a set of grids that can be specified independently of the LCI Sources. For example, you can have an Australasian LCI Source Project with an ‘EU Poland’ electricity grid. This ability to ‘mix-and-match’ allows some flexibility to help refine the LCA study to more accurately match the location & grid intensities of the Project. If this approach is used, the study author must be able to provide reasonable justification for the selection to study audiences and/or the reviewer.


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 eTool. 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.
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 eTool library and include years of research from Cerclos staff and eTool 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.

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 have a specific plan to intentionally expand the template library significantly as we feel that it is more important to spend our time finding ways to reduce a large amount of carbon than creating new templates by user demand. In saying that, our template library is constantly expanding in an organic way since our own team often create new templates as they conduct our in-house assessments.

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