Case study

How One Click LCA’s BIM LCA & Revit tools help Page design buildings more sustainably

How One Click LCA’s BIM LCA & Revit tools help Page design buildings more sustainably

One Click LCA BIM tools are helping Page designers to lower the embodied carbon of the buildings they design

“The database is very robust — materials are tied to an EPD [environmental product declaration] that you can open and clearly see global warming potential and other impacts. The EPD shows you where the numbers and resources come from — so everything is very traceable and as certifiable as possible."    
– Page Building Sciences Engineer, Sophie Martin

Page is a design-led firm that prioritizes people and community. With a global team of over 1,400 professionals and a presence across 21 offices, Page’s expertise encompasses diverse market sectors, including academic, advanced manufacturing, aviation, civic/community/culture, commercial/mixed use, government, healthcare, mission critical, and science/technology. Their practice areas range from architecture and engineering to interiors and urban design, each underpinned by a commitment to understand and fulfill client needs while remaining socially and environmentally responsible. 

 

Page Building Sciences Engineer, Sophie Martin, explains how she uses the One Click LCA Revit integration with Autodesk to lower the embodied carbon impact of her projects, and why she prefers One Click LCA tools to other software.

Streamline your LCA process with the One Click LCA Revit tool

Hear how Page Building Sciences Engineer, Sophie Martin, uses the One Click LCA integration with Autodesk's Revit tool

 

How Page’s Building Sciences team has come to count on One Click LCA

 

On the building sciences team, we’re really focused on sustainability. I do everything from building performance analysis — which would be your life-cycle assessments (LCA’s), daylight analysis, envelope analysis — to sustainability planning and LEED certification. I started using One Click LCA’s Revit integration last year, and it quickly became necessary for one of the projects I was on. One Click LCA allowed us to expand our capability to study exactly what contractors are requesting.

 

Why do you prefer One Click LCA’s BIM LCA tools?

As I mentioned before, it became necessary for a study requested by a contractor. I quickly realized that One Click LCA is a very robust tool, and I prefer it over other software for many reasons.

A robust database with EPDs and other resources

The database is very robust — the materials are tied to an EPD you can open and clearly see global warming potential and other impacts. The EPD shows you where the numbers and resources come from — so everything is very traceable, and as certifiable as possible. I like the level of detail in the database, which has many different resources. If there’s a resource or product I’m using that’s not in the database, I can create a custom material. I can enter different metrics to represent the product as closely as possible. I can easily navigate material assignments and change the material volume and area.

User-friendly interface

I really like One Click LCA’s interface — I can see all the different products I’ve assigned in my LCA on one page and I can quickly scroll through and compare volumes and other data. If there’s a reduction in volume of a structural material, I can run that design case then go into the One Click LCA tool, copy the LCA, and easily change the volume of material to reflect the change between baseline and proposed volume. So that’s how I come up with my baseline versus my proposed case.

I can also customize my transportation impact. There are many different modes of transportation — whether by air, by sea, or by truck — and the impact varies depending on what country we’re looking at and what the conditions are like there. So, I’m able to import my custom transportation mode right in One Click LCA.

The Completeness and Plausibility Checker

One Click LCA also has a Completeness and Plausibility Checker, which I like. It grades A through F and will flag different material types that seem like they are not credible. For example, I had a project where my glass mass was flagged, which was a sign for me to revisit my Revit model and make sure all of my glass had the right assignments. I use that feature as a guide to steer me through the different elements of the building when I am double-checking my work.

The Carbon Heroes Benchmark

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It also has the Carbon Heroes Benchmark, which I find very helpful as it allows me to see where my project ranks against other projects of a similar building type. When I first started using One Click LCA tools, my benchmark was very low on a couple of projects that should have scored more highly. This was another flag for me to check the model, and I found a mistake in the units I had set. The Carbon Heroes Benchmark and the Plausibility Checker are both great tools that provide a sanity check on my work.

Customizable graphics and reports

I like and frequently use the customizable graphics. There are many categories, such as “All Impact Categories”, “Life-cycle stages”, and “Elements”, that create customized graphics and reports for that specific element. I can also change the focus of each report — I can tailor it to focus on global warming potential or another impact category of my choice. I don’t end up with a one-size-fits-all report — I can customize it based on what I need for my project.

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Great customer service — query responses with 24 hours

The customer service is top notch. When I was first starting out, I got in touch with One Click LCA nearly every day. I was the first one on our team at Page to start really working with the software — but now I’ve learned how to use the tools, and I’m able to guide my team members.

At the beginning I had a lot of questions for our One Click LCA representative. I was getting a lot of pressure from our client to get this done as soon as possible so I was relieved to get email responses from One Click LCA within 24 hours. This helped me, every day, to keep moving — I wasn’t held up for a long period of time, waiting for feedback from a representative, which was really helpful.

One Click LCA was also very receptive to the feedback I gave them on the software. They are continually updating the software, and it's nice to work with a company that is open to customer feedback.

Case study: Project on the African continent

I can’t share too many details, because it’s a secure project, but I can tell you it’s a 130,000-square-foot, four-story concrete structure in Africa. The facade is clad with terracotta and metal panels. 

The challenge

The client wanted to introduce fly ash into their concrete mix, but the nearest source of fly ash was a 1200-mile truck drive away. We realized that the transportation impact might be so significant it would negate the environmental benefit of fly ash — so we had to take a closer look.

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How One Click LCA helped us find the answers

Other LCA tools we use would assume the truck was an efficient U.S. diesel vehicle, but the impact of transportation is likely to be greater in a developing country. The vehicles tend to be smaller and might be 10 or 15 years older. The roads are less developed, and there’s likely to be more delays. We had to figure out a way to take all of this into account.

When I learned that you can account for a variety of transportation methods in One Click LCA, I realized we could get a more accurate measure of this transportation impact. One Click LCA offers a robust set of options for modes of transportation; we could choose between cargo ship, truck, or train. There are also options more specific to different countries, and really specific variations — whether it’s long distance, medium distance, short distance, or freight transport via air transport. We were able to get really granular in the different options available.

The method

I reviewed the impact of transporting fly ash for concrete and the impact of transporting other materials on the project — insulation, metal panels, etc. We were far enough along that we had submittals in and knew where materials were being sourced from. I was able to account for the impact of shipping some materials from the United States by air or ocean, and then I could also account for the second leg of the journey which was by truck to the job site.

I ended up creating a custom transportation impact using the One Click LCA online software. I plugged in a .31kg CO2 equivalent per ton kilometer for truck transportation. I came to that CO2 equivalent by first selecting a 7.5-16-ton freight transport from the One Click LCA database. I assumed the fly ash would be transported on a vehicle of roughly this size. I then added a 10% increase for road quality and potential delays. I then added a 25% increase for lower-efficiency vehicles. The U.S Office for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy reports a 25% improvement in vehicle emissions between 2005 and 2020. Since the vehicles used in this project were likely to be 10-15 years older than American vehicles typically used, we assumed the vehicles making this trip would be about 25% less efficient. While it’s impossible to predict the exact age or efficiency of the vehicle, this was the most accurate method we could come up with to measure the transportation impacts for this project.

The results

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We looked at four different concrete mixes and found that fly ash (and/or slag) substitution ends up increasing the concrete’s embodied carbon footprint due to the transportation impact.

As a result, the client elected not to use fly ash on the project. They ended up improving the embodied carbon from the baseline, but not via fly ash. The project team reported that they redesigned structurally to reduce their concrete and steel volume. We used One Click LCA’s tools to account for this reduction in material volume and receive credit for the embodied carbon reduction.

One Click LCA BIM tool tips & tricks

Using the BIM LCA Revit plug-in for material assignments and uploading to the cloud

At Page, we use the Revit plugin for our material assignments — our architects and structural engineers primarily build in Revit. We can perform early stage embodied carbon analyses before the Revit model is built using tools like One Click LCA’s early analysis tool, Carbon Designer 3D. Then we wait until assignments for structural and their facade materials are built out in Revit to perform our comprehensive, whole building LCA in One Click LCA.

Consider the LCA from an early stage

If possible, we set up a meeting with our architecture team and structural engineer early in project design to discuss embodied carbon goals — what are their material choices? How can we reduce the volume of structural materials? What are some greener alternatives? We also talk about modeling logistics. We explain modeling practices they can follow to make it as seamless as possible for us to upload data onto One Click LCA and get it into the cloud.

Look at the structural elements

I occasionally get LCA requests where the client hasn’t engaged the Building Science s team early on, and we have to work with what we get. First, I confirm our structural elements are all being modeled with depth. On one of the projects I worked on, the metal deck was assigned to the roof assembly as a drop down without the thickness accounted for. So, One Click LCA did not include the metal deck in the initial LCA. Metal deck structural steel has super-high embodied carbon, so it was really important not to miss this. During my QA/QC process, I always check to make sure that I have the major structural elements accounted for in my LCA.

Avoiding duplicate materials

At Page, we usually have an architect working on an architectural model and a structural engineer working on a separate structural model in Revit. The architect might end up pulling some structural elements into their architectural model for coordination purposes. As a result, some structural elements are included in both models and, when we upload to the cloud, we get duplicates.

I utilize the ‘isolate in 3D’ tool to view the architectural model side by side with the structural model. I review the models from a high level, to see — are there duplicates here? Do we have duplicate slabs? Do we have duplicate columns? What is duplicated? That way, I make sure I don’t upload duplicate materials between my architectural and structural models, because at the end of the day I want to put those together and have one whole building LCA, that is structure and envelope together.

If I do notice a duplicate element, I need to leave one of the material assignments blank. There’s not an easy way to do this in One Click LCA right now, but this is an example of how their Customer Service representative worked with me to come up with a solution. Now, I assign a dummy material — for example ‘dishwasher’ — instead. Then, when I upload to the cloud, I can very easily see items marked ‘dishwasher’ and remove them.

Creating custom materials

After a custom material is assigned in Revit and uploaded to One Click LCA online, any changes made to the custom material in the “private datasets” database after that point will not be automatically reflected in my project’s LCA. Instead, I need to manually re-assign custom materials to the new updated custom material one by one. I highly recommend making sure custom materials are as accurate as they can be before they’re added to your project so you don’t have to manually update them later.

A summary: Why One Click LCA is my choice in software

  • Creation of custom materials

  • Robust EPD database

  • Customizable reports and graphics

  • Resources for Quality Assurance & Quality Control

  • Excellent customer service

 

One Click LCA works with architects, engineers, and designers in the construction industry to simplify their life-cycle assessment processes with automated tools, easy-to-use software, and integrations with the top BIM tools, like Revit. 

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