Australian-based life cycle software consultancy eTool has identified a 60 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for an inner city UK apartment development consisting of 172 units.

Receiving interest during the UK Green Buildings Council’s Embodied Carbon Week, eTool believes Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios' One Brighton project has the potential to achieve up to almost an 80 per cent reduction as compared to the average UK home.  

Its life cycle assessment (LCA) includes the embodied carbon emissions within the mixed-use and car-free twin block development, as well as One Brighton’s day-to-day operational emissions from energy and water consumption.

The LCA was an integral part of One Brighton’s performance review against the targets set in the One Planet Action Plan – an action plan created by entrepreneurial sustainability charity BioRegional with the developer which provides a holistic sustainability framework and common international targets for the project.

Findings show that in existing homes, total lifecycle emissions are dominated by operational emissions, which occur when a house is occupied. However, for One Brighton, the embodied carbon emitted in constructing the building as well as making the materials that have been utilised comprises a larger part of the total lifecycle emissions – although these emissions are lower than in conventional housing.

A ‘green concrete’ frame containing blast furnace slag, and an exterior wall made of highly insulating clay bocks fired at low temperatures, was used in the construction process. According to BioRegional, both initiatives have helped to reduce the building’s embodied carbon emissions by 25 per cent.

Other features contributing to the building's environmental success include roof terrace allotments, a living roof planted with cliff-top vegetation, a community composter, photovoltaic panels, and a sustainable foods café. 

The report also found that One Brighton is not yet achieving its design targets because of the intermittent availability of the wood-pellet (biomass) burning boiler, which supplies the building’s space heating and hot water.

If this gap is closed, and BioRegional’s target of meeting nine tenths of the building’s heat demand from biomass is achieved, the development’s overall lifecycle savings would jump further to be 78 per cent lower than an average UK home.

“The Carbon LCA carried out by eTool shed new light on our environmental strategy at One Brighton. It has given us a clearer insight into the relative importance of embodied versus operational greenhouse gas emissions which will inform our next One Planet Community,” says BioRegional co-founder, Pooran Desai, OBE.

eTool has also worked with BioRegional Australia on projects such as the 5x4 Hayes Lane project – a development that aims to be a super energy efficient, zero carbon dwelling in the heart of Melbourne.

Designed to be zero fossil gas fuelled, 5x4 Hayes Lane is a transparent project allowing the public to witness its progress, design development and final outcome. It is sponsored by not-for-profit organisation, Beyond Zero Emissions, with eTool’s software used to calculate and optimise the full life cycle impacts of the project.

eTool's LCA software allows architects, engineers and developers to measure the improve the life cycle impacts of buildings. It was created to ensure LCA became a "standard design philosophy in all built environment projects".

“An LCA never fails to raise interesting design questions surrounding not only material selection but operational energy, water, transport, waste and functionality,” says Pat Hermon, lead eTool LCA engineer.