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What is a Life Cycle Assessment?

20 Feb 2019

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Under the most recent changes to BREEAM (2018), a Life Cycle Assessment is now required for all schemes to achieve credits in the MAT01 section.

The materials we choose when constructing new developments can bring with them a surprisingly high carbon footprint.

From each single brick to each strip of skirting board, every product needs to be produced, transported, and installed on site. While the building is in use these materials will need to be maintained, replaced or refurbished, until eventually the building is demolished and the cycle begins all over again.

Each one of these lifetime phases brings with it the possibility of using additional energy or water, producing additional toxins and pollutants, reducing air quality and increasing carbon emissions. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a way of predicting how green your proposed building will be from its extraction from the earth to the inevitable razing.

Standard Building Regulations don’t consider the environmental impact of specific materials, but this is becoming more of a talking point and is likely to be a common consideration in years to come.

With increasing awareness and consideration for sustainability, the Greater London Authority is potentially looking to introduce Life Cycle Assessments into the next version of the London Plan. If this goes ahead it could very quickly change the mindset around the standard construction materials we currently rely on to build in the capital.

Under the most recent changes to BREEAM (2018), a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is now required for all schemes to achieve credits in the MAT01 section. In BREEAM there are up to ten heavily-weighted MAT01 credits available for a perfectly performing LCA, so this is certainly an area that designers need to take seriously.

The LCA isn’t just looking at the external frame of a building; it considers the internal fit-outs also. With so many intricate elements to feed into the assessment it can be difficult to know which approach is best.

Generally, timber systems perform well, while chemical and concrete based products don’t. But that’s only one part of the equation. You also need to consider the distance traveled by each material (and transportation used), and how much of each material you’re planning on using.

Our in-house BREEAM team is qualified to produce Life Cycle Assessments.

We can complete the calculation for you, check the performance against BREEAM and offer advice on potential changes to your material list so you can earn extra high-value credits.

As with most elements of BREEAM it is important to complete the Life Cycle Assessment early. It should be completed early enough so the results can be used by your design team, and certainly before any construction work begins on site.

If you would like to find out more about LCA and how this feeds in to your overall BREEAM assessment, contact out specialist technical team for more details.

 

 

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Jon Ponting

Energy And Sustainability Specialist

Email

Jon Ponting

Energy And Sustainability Specialist

jonp@energistuk.co.uk
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