Life Cycle Assessments and BREEAM – are you calculating your BREEAM points correctly?

As sustainability in the built environment continues to rise up the priority list for architects, developers, specifiers and everyone else in the sector, the environmental performance of the products used in construction are coming under the microscope more and more.

One of the best ways to do this is to consider the full Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of a product which charts its environmental impact in all aspects from cradle to grave. What’s more, this type of assessment can have a significant impact on your BREEAM Assessment and what score you achieve.

Read on to find out more about LCAs, how they interact with BREEAM, and why choosing the right products can help you achieve the highest level of sustainability.

What is a Life Cycle Assessment?

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) considers every aspect of a product’s life cycle including production, transport, construction, operational energy usage, the ongoing maintenance of the product and how it is disposed of at the end of its life.

Overall, more than 20 environmental indicators are looked at when completing a full LCA, making it far more thorough than a simple whole-life carbon assessment. The latter looks only at the product’s carbon impact and does not take into account factors like water usage, toxicity, particulate matter formation and many more.

An LCA is a comprehensive assessment which allows you to see the full environmental impact of a product over the course of its life, from cradle to grave. By doing so, you can make choices which are truly sustainable in all areas rather than just focussing on carbon or financial cost.

How does a Life Cycle Assessment impact a BREEAM assessment?

By securing a BRE-certified Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) which covers modules A1-A3, C1-C4 and D – like Specwall has – a product can show its sustainability at all stages of its lifecycle. Module D in particular is of interest with regards to a BREEAM assessment as it covers a product’s reuse, recovery and recycling potential.

This is information which many suppliers are unaware of and cannot reliably tell you when choosing a product for your development. With Specwall, you will have no such concerns, and this is also relevant for a BREEAM Assessment.

This information can be used to feed into a BREEAM assessment in the following credits which can help you obtain a BREEAM Excellent or Outstanding rating:

  • Man 02 Life Cycle Cost and service life planning – including Elemental Life Cycle Cost (2 credits) and Component Level Life Cycle Cost (1 credit)
  • Man 03 Responsible Construction Practices – Monitoring of Construction Site Impacts (2 credits)
  • Man 05 Aftercare (1 credit and 1 post-occupancy evaluation credit and 1 exemplary credit)
  • Mat 01 Life Cycle Impacts (5 credits and 1 exemplary credit and 1 EPD credit)
  • Mat 03 Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products (up to 3 credits)
  • Waste 05 Adaptation to Climate Change (1 credit and 1 exemplary credit)

The above credits are possible to achieve by using a system like OneClick, a leading LCA software which supports the achievement of 20 BREEAM credits as described above, including the exemplary credit the MAT 01 category which is otherwise tough to achieve.

If you are carrying out a BREEAM assessment, seeking a high level and in need of every credit, choosing products which are compatible with an IMPACT-equivalent tool like OneClick is a great way to give yourself the best chance of fulfilling the criteria.

On the other hand, if you are not considering the full LCA of the products you are using, you may be calculating your credits incorrectly or missing ones you are entitled to, and reducing the chance of meeting the required standard.

Specwall is verified on the OneClick comparison portal which is used by many architects and specifiers for their BREEAM calculations, and also to compare construction products directly. Click here to see the portal for more information.

Want to learn more about Specwall and its sustainability benefits? Get in touch with the team today by clicking here.

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