Over 10% increase in Ozone Depletion (ODP) or Abiotic Resource Depletion Potential (ADP) causing potential loss of Green Star LCA Credits

Many users who are recommending the use of large PV systems or cross-laminated-timber in place of concrete are finding that the increase in ADP or ODP is above the Green Star allowance of 10% which is causing the project to lose their whole Greenstar LCA credit. We have previously suggested some measures specifically for large PV systems to help reduce the % of increase in ADP/ODP for those only marginally over the allowance. However for some larger systems and CLT recommentations, these measures are not enough. In light of this growing concern, we thought it would be important to address the underlying issue regarding ODP & ADP increases for what we believe are the best choices for the planet and hope to shed light on these questions.

Firstly, it is important to not miss the wood for the trees on this issue. The relative percentage increase of an indicator is not a good representation of the net environmental gain or loss. For example, 10% improvement in one indicator and 10% performance loss in another would rarely “cancel each other out” due to the following factors:

  • The “business as usual” or “reference case” design may have far more significant levels of one indicator verse the other.  For example, it may be that the design has very minor levels of indicator A but much higher levels of indicator B in which case a small percentage drop in indicator B would be more significant than the same change in indicator A.  In LCA this problem is addressed with normalisation (expressing each impact as a % of a typical person’s impacts giving a relative magnitude compared to “normal” levels).  From ISO 14044: “The aim of the normalization is to understand better the relative magnitude for each indicator result of the product system under study.”  It is not possible (or at least very difficult) to understand the relative magnitude of indicators without normalisation.
  • The actual relative damage of each environmental impact may be quite difference, for example small amounts of one indicator may be far more damaging than larger amounts of another indicator.  This is normally addressed with weighting.  From ISO 14044: “Weighting is the process of converting indicator results of different impact categories by using numerical factors based on value-choices. It may include aggregation of the weighted indicator results.”  

The GBCA calculation technique for assigning credits to the LCA outputs ignores normalisation and weighting and hence should not be used for making design decisions.  The GBCA method aggregates results before any normalisation or weighting is conducted which is almost certain to result in adverse design decisions if used to assess the relative merits of design options particularly where there are trade-offs. For example avoiding larger PV systems or choosing concrete instead of CLT.

eTool have expressed this concern and have provided real life examples of flaws in its application in previous public submissions to the GBCA. You can read about our submission in the link below which summarises our feedback to the GBCA during the public consultation for the V1.2 credit.  If you also believe that it is unfair to penalise projects for having large PV panels and using CLT, we highly encourage the eToolLCD community to lobby the GBCA to tackle this issue. When situations like this arise, a Credit Interpretation Request (CIR) needs to be raised with GBCA to discuss about a potential alternative pathway. Please get in touch with us for assistance normalising and weighting your results which may support a CIR for the GBCA (this has been a successful avenue for some other users historically).

Related Articles: Lack of Normalisation and Weighting in the Green Star LCA Calculations, How to Reduce ADP/ODP Increase in Large PV Systems, Increase of POCP for CLT

What is the Certification Process for Various Rating Schemes?

At eTool, our certifiers are first and foremost reviewing all LCA studies according to EN 15978 and ISO 14044 best practice standards.

Any rating system specific requirements are to be addressed by the study author, not the certifier. Where a rating system’s requirements are not in accordance with EN 15978, the associated quality checks will be left in question even if it may not affect the certification of the design. This is because the eToolLCD automated reporting assumes all eToolLCD studies are aiming for EN 15978 compliance.

As such, where the study falls short of EN 15978, the certifier’s responsibility is only to highlight the issues and their concerns with the study which is summarised in the Certifier Review Statement (example below). The onus is then on the study author if they wish to proceed with the certification against the advice of the certifier.

For more information on the different standards and eTool’s compliance, please refer to this support post: eTool Compliance with International Standards

What's the difference between the ISCA material's calculator and eToolLCD?

Although both eToolLCD and the IS Materials Calculator meet the ISCA Materials credit requirement, the integrated Life Cycle Assessment approach using eToolLCD can provide more design value for the project team by understanding proportional impacts of different project areas and how they interact with each other over the whole asset design life.

Integrated design – LCA methodology can be used to not only assess materials impact, but also operational energy, water, maintenance, end of life, thus, it creates a greater transparency and tangibility of the project and can demonstrate how all different components interact with each other throughout the whole project life. eToolLCD allows designers to record design changes and quantify impact reduction to understand the relevance of each improvement strategy and prioritise the most relevant ones.

Life Cycle Inventory – They both use the same dataset (Australasian AusLCI provided by Life Cycle Strategies) with impact assessment method aligned with EN15804. eToolLCD includes additional materials to choose from using an Ecoinvent shadow database and the functionality to add EPDs for specific products. eToolLCD users can define custom end of life disposal method and distances, waste and maintenance factors, so it’s a more holistic approach.

System Boundary – IS Materials calculator uses a cradle-to-gate approach (Product Stage A) and some maintenance/use impacts whereas eToolLCD uses cradle-to-cradle approach including all life cycle modules (A, B, C and D) to also account for impacts and benefits related to maintenance, end of life, reuse and recycling.

Data entry – IS Materials Calculator data entry is manual. eToolLCD has import functionality using BIM integration (Revit plugin), CSV file upload and a dynamic and easy to use template system. This import functionality in eToolLCD can save consultants a lot of time.

Reporting – Both tools report on Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG) and IS EnviroPoints. eToolLCD has an automated reporting functionality to produce reports in pdf formats and other reports to assist the design process like Top Impacts Report, Materials Summary Report and detailed Life Cycle Inventory report.

Life Cycle Costing – eToolLCD allows designers to combine environmental and financial analysis to understand the best strategies for environmental gain and return on investment over the asset life.

Can I use the EPDs with 'ISCA' in the title for normal LCAs?

No. The ISCA EPDs in the library are specifically for ISCA projects. Those EPDs only cover modules A1-3 therefore do not align with EN 15978. For normal LCAs, you can find the equivalent material in the default eToolLCD LCI database or public template library and it is recommended these are relied on in preference to ensure that impacts associated with product transport, construction, use, disposal and recycling have been accounted for.

You can read more about the difference between ISCA and eToolLCD here.