Last edited 10 Dec 2021

BREEAM Life cycle impacts


[edit] Aim and benefits

The aim of the Mat 01 Life cycle issue is to understand, consider and reduce the environmental impacts of projects from the construction materials used.

This used to be done with reference to the Green Guide but the data is over 10 years old and is not aligned to EN standards. The Building LCA replaces the Green Guide approach with credits now awarded for:

EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) have long been used to help assess the environmental impacts of individual building products. In BREEAM UK NC 2018, this analysis takes the process one step further and is used to assess the environmental impact of the whole building. As well as construction products themselves, the analysis includes impacts from transporting them to and from site, construction, their maintenance and what happens at the end of the building's life in terms of demolition and waste processing.

When undertaken in the early stages of the design, this analysis can help identify strategies that can reduce the whole life environmental impacts.

[edit] Value for Clients

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) helps the clients and design teams familiarise with the importance of Global Warming Potential impacts and other environmental indicators, and how to reduce these impacts through the specification of more environmentally friendly alternatives through material choice, construction methods, and operational strategies. Although BREEAM UK NC 2018 does not require operational energy and water to be included in the assessment, it is highly recommended to do so for completeness of the assessment and adding higher value to the LCA work. Trade-offs between energy and water use and materials impacts are common place and ensuring the net impact of a particular strategy is indeed positive requires whole of life analysis. Tools like eToolLCD can help LCA practitioners model operational energy and water impacts even at the earliest design stages when not enough information is known through the use of its unique template system.

When LCA is done early-on in the process, it helps the clients and design teams identify and implement the necessary impact reduction measures at the lowest possible cost. This issue provides some relatively “low cost credits” considering the number of credits that can be achieved and the weighting.

[edit] When to consider

Most BREEAM schemes require this credit to be tackled in the design phase. BREEAM UK NC 2018 requires the Mat 01 issue to start being addressed at Concept design stage and part of it being completed before applying for planning permission.

BREEAM operate a rigourous process for the submission of results (through date stamped Excel tools):

Therefore it is important to communicate the importance of Mat01 in BREEAM 2018 to the design team at the earliest opportunity. Design teams are usually considering different options in terms of cost and aesthetics so this is a good time to bring in LCA as well. Another way of dealing with this issue while at the same time adding value to the design is for an LCA specialist to identify options that will reduce the overall environmental impacts instead of simply optioneering materials. This again is of higher value when done at an early stage when the design is still flexible. eToolLCD has an integrated workflow that allows users to identify and model such strategies and finally export an automated report that can be used as an options appraisal summary report for the BREEAM submission. In any case, the biggest opportunity to minimise the embodied impacts is early on in the design process.

Once the Concept Design Stage work is completed, this issue will be applicable again at the Technical Design Stage. LCA however can be integrated into the design and used throughout the design regardless the BREEAM timeframe.

[edit] Step-by-step guidance

Most design teams will require the services of an external consultant to carry out the full LCA analysis.

The most time consuming element of the analysis is the collation of the data. It is very unlikely that the supporting evidence will come from just one source. An early meeting can help identify the likely sources of data. Where available, a cost plan or bill of quantities prepared by the surveyor is a very good starting point, supplemented by drawings and sketches. Some LCA software support integration with common design tools and the analysis can be supported with data (via plugins) from BIM models, energy modelling tools as IES Virtual Environment as well as DesignBuilder, and Revit.

The design team should review all the quantities once the data has been collated, and provide any clarification required.

Tackling this credit requires following a number of steps which vary by the applicable BREEAM scheme but are listed in detail within the relevant BREEAM manual. More information on common questions can be found in the BREEAM Knowledge Base for each scheme. Some software tools include scheme-specific workflows to support this credit. For example, One Click LCA includes specific workflows for BREEAM UK NC 2018 (benchmarks and optioneering) as well as BREEAM International, BREEAM SE, BREEAM NOR, BREEAM ES and BREEAM DE (for the new construction and renovation versions).

[edit] Questions to ask while seeking compliance

Design team experience is key to maximising credits in this issue. It is likely in most instances that an external specialist consultant, using a compliant software tool, will need to be engaged. BRE pre-approves the software that can be used for this issue and as such it cannot be documented without an approved software solution.

Compliant software tools are documented by BRE in the so-called Mat 01 calculator which is available in the BRE Extranet. For BREEAM UK and BREEAM International schemes the approved software are also listed here:

Some credits of the BREEAM UK NC 2018 Mat 01 issue require using IMPACT-compliant software. This is to allow a fair and consistent comparison of the LCA results with those of the BREEAM benchmark. More information on the IMPACT database can be found in the following link:

BREEAM UK NC 2014 requires the use of an IMPACT compliant software to achieve the exemplary Mat 01 credit. For a list of compliant software visit the following link:

For BREEAM NOR, the Mat 01 credit includes both use of an LCA software, as well as greenhouse gas accounting using the Norwegian national standard NS 3720.

For BREEAM NL,the Dutch regulatory method is applied and software complying with that can be found here:

In terms of software tools, eToolLCD was the first BREEAM approved software and can be used to achieve 100% of the available Mat 01 credits for BREEAM UK NC 2018. BREEAM UK NC 2014, BREEAM International, BREEAM UK Refurbishment and Fit-out, BREEAM International Refurbishment and Fit-out, Home Quality Mark as well as other national BREEAM manuals. In addition, it can be used for compliance with other schemes like Green Star, Living Building Challenge, Ceequal, ISCA etc.

Similarly, One Click LCA is approved for every BREEAM scheme as an LCA software, and allows targeting every credit for the Mat 01 LCA as well as associated EPD credit(s). It has several specific modules, including specific tools for IMPACT-compliant (BREEAM UK), Non-IMPACT compliant tool (BREEAM UK), BREEAM International/NOR/ES/SE/DE tool, and specific tool for BREEAM NL and a specific tool for BREEAM NOR’s national greenhouse gas accounting method.

[edit] Tools and resources

Design teams can integrate building LCA into their design process using a tool recognised by BREEAM. The current options are:

For a detailed overview of the available LCA software recognised by BREEAM, check the following link which is regularly updated to include more software as they become recognised by BRE. At current time eToolLCD and One Click LCA are the tools that can achieve 100% of the available BREEAM UK NC 2018 Mat 01 credits. There are plenty of other software though that can be really useful even if they are not achieving all available BREEAM credits. Let’s not forget that achieving the credits is not the goal here – it’s just the reward for complying with the intention of this issue.

[edit] Learning this issue

Some useful links and resources in terms of learning about this issue, including background and practical skills. This is also the suggested order to maximise understanding

Further reading

[edit] Tips and best practice

Most design teams will not have the specialist knowledge required to carry out this complex analysis and will probably engage the services of an external consultant to carry out the full LCA analysis. Make sure that the consultant is engaged early enough to guide the collation of meaningful data, drive the option appraisals and present the results for consideration prior to the conclusion of RIBA stage 2 (and in the UK before submission for planning approval).

Addressing the credit early on, and using automation to speed up this credit analysis are very important productivity factors, as is the consistency of datasets used.

BREEAM require the appraisal of 2-4 Superstructure (Structural material, Facade systems, grid size etc) options at Stage 2. Focus on the large changes that might be straightforward to incorporate in the early stages but would be more difficult later during the design process. Focus on changes that will likely reduce the overall impacts. It is not of high value assessing an option that is known already it will result in higher impacts.

BREEAM require the appraisal of at least 6 Substructure (Foundation types, Basement walls) and landscape options (Hard surface materials, Loading and vehicle access strategy) with a minimum of 2 substructure options and a minimum of 2 landscape options. In practice, substructure options may well be limited by site and ground conditions, so it makes sense to focus more on different landscape options.

The results should be communicated to the design team and the information used to inform the design.

Remember - The option with the lowest impacts does not need to be selected, but justification is required for the choice.

[edit] Typical evidence

The numerical evidence is generated by the LCA software. It takes the form of Excel spreadsheets, whose content varies by the BREEAM scheme.

Documentation in the form of a report should also be provided. The report should provide a summary of the option appraisals, which is updated regularly to include outcomes, through the inclusion of minutes, option descriptions and the associated results. eToolLCD has the ability to export automated reports that can be used for the BREEAM submission.

[edit] Applicable Schemes

The guidelines collated in this ISD aim to support sustainable best practice in the topic described. This issue may apply in multiple BREEAM schemes covering different stages in the life of a building, different building types and different year versions. Some content may be generic but scheme nuances should also be taken into account. Refer to the comments below and related articles to this one to understand these nuances. See this document for further guidelines.

BRE Global does not endorse any of the content posted and use of the content will not guarantee the meeting of certification criteria.

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