Life Cycle Assessment
30th April 2020
As the world increasingly understands that everything we do has an impact on the planet, Gazeley has changed the way we strive for sustainability.
We have embraced a strategic, evidence-based approach to environmentally- friendly development.
It’s a step change from traditional green initiatives such as carbon offsetting. As part of this corporate policy shift, we measure our construction and logistics operations using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
It might sound like a very 21 st century phrase but the origins of Life Cycle Assessment actually date back to the 1960s and arose from growing concern over limited resources and pollution.
Worried about waste, nuclear power station manager Harold Smith shared his thoughts on a “cumulative energy concept” at the 1963 World Energy Conference.
In 1969, Coca-Cola developed this idea by assessing the resource and pollution impacts of drinks containers. This helped lay the foundations for LCA, a data-driven methodology. At Gazeley we believe sustainability is no longer an optional extra.
WHAT IS LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT?
LCA maps the environmental impact of a product or process across its whole life cycle, often called “from cradle to grave”. This can include raw material extraction, processing, manufacture, operational use, maintenance, dismantling, recycling and disposal.
It’s broadly divided into “embodied carbon” (making something) and “operational carbon” (using it) with analysis providing breakdowns of carbon footprints at both stages.
In construction, the type of building affects the relative proportions of its whole life cycle carbon footprint. For example, energy used to heat, cool and light domestic dwellings often generates a greater share of total environmental burden than building them did.
It can be the reverse with constructions in logistics centres which are less occupied.
As regulation tightens and we discover more ways to become energy efficient, the percentage of emissions from embodied carbon becomes more significant, with emphasis shifting to eco-friendly materials, water use and end-of-life procedures.
Understanding the relationship between embodied carbon and operational carbon helps determine the best ways to guarantee optimum reductions and prevent greenhouse gases.
WHY EMBRACE THE CHALLENGE OF LCA?
The reasons are varied. They might include demands from customers and regulators for improved environmental performance or be the consequence of a company aspiring to drive innovation. For other organisations it’s about thought leadership, raising investment or supporting marketing claims with facts.
For some companies, it will simply be that employees care about the world their grandchildren will live in.
WHAT IT MEANS TO GAZELEY
With the World Green Building Council warning that construction is responsible for 39 per cent of all carbon emissions, Gazeley prides itself on its passionate approach in this area.
As early as 2004 we launched our Eco Template, a framework to improve the environmental credentials of developments and share insight with customers and competitors.
Its goal is net zero carbon emissions and as part of that journey, it is driving a shift to green logistics parks, featuring sustainable technology and eco-friendly materials such as:
solar heating storm water collection energy-efficient lighting electric vehicle charging stations battery storage for PV-generated electricity recyclable floor coverings sustainably-sourced timber. But the motivation isn’t only about protecting the planet…
ECO STANDS FOR…
Gazeley understands the pressures businesses face so champions “affordable sustainability”.
Our Eco Template initiatives deliver energy savings of 25% compared to traditional logistics centres.
We understand that low embodied carbon buildings can build resilience into a sector by mitigating against volatile energy prices and uncertainty over resources. Operational bills can fluctuate but construction costs remain relatively fixed.
So “Eco” can stand for economical as well as ecological!
BUT DON’T TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT…
As part of our commitment to sustainability as standard, we invited resource experts Circular Ecology to assess the embodied carbon footprint of our Doncaster DC development. Embodied carbon is now thought to make up 20- 50 per cent of a new building’s total carbon emissions. For warehouses, it’s often higher and a figure likely to increase as energy efficiency improves.
Unlike operational emissions, embodied carbon can’t be improved, so design is crucial. But it is possible to reduce embodied carbon emissions by up to 20 percent in a cost-neutral way.
Circular Ecology measured carbon reductions at Doncaster where we used procedures such as Ground Granulated Blast-furnace Slag (GGBS) in foundations, steel cladding instead of aluminium system and pad foundations instead of piling.
Its team also predicted operational carbon and estimated that over a 30-year period, the total whole life carbon saving will be 2,491 tonnes of CO2e. That is enough to build 69 homes, drive a car round the earth 518 times or power a 20 watt light bulb for 45,000 years.
Gazeley is also planting 12,000 trees around the site, a carbon sink to support biodiversity and absorb emissions.
Graeme Munro, European Head of Construction, was delighted with the findings.
“It’s harder to control emissions at operational phase, so our focus needs to be at the front end and that’s where we look at the eco passport of construction materials,” he says.
“The only way to do that is to embrace your supply chain and get them to follow you.”
Gazeley will continue to pioneer smarter, future-proof buildings as it shares best practice with its partners in the customer community.
Graeme Munro says: “We’re always pushing the limits to be the market leader in sustainability and innovation, with buildings that are efficient and as effective as possible for our customers. We aim for all our buildings to get a minimum BREEAM Very Good rating for sustainability.”
We believe looking after our planet should be a shared responsibility not a competitive issue.