These data were collected from a range of secondary resources in the public domain and have been condensed into coefficients that can be used in the design process. The coefficients are presented in material profiles, as shown in Figure 1. (The database is freely available at the SET website).
The second phase in the ICE project is the integration of coefficient values from the database into some form of design tool that could be used throughout the design process. The level of complexity in such a tool will vary with each user, with output format ranging from basic calculated values to advanced data lists and graphical displays. In all cases the tool should enable rapid predictions of costs, so that comparisons of the environmental effects of various materials can be made and this information included in the decision process for material selection.
Ideally, the environmental predictions would be incorporated as a separate module into a wider package that could allow additional parameters to be added at a later stage. Such a tool should be of direct interest to both designers and assessors. BSRIA hopes to form a network of industrial partners to develop such a module over the coming months.
The future of the database
The potential of this tool is far-reaching. While the initial focus has been on embodied carbon and energy values there is no reason why other data could not also be included at a later stage, such as service life, water use, regulation and waste/recycling. In addition it could be extended from predicting the environmental consequences of individual components and building to multiple building zones (such as a campus).
Although there is little incentive, apart from public criticism, for companies to consider the environmental costs of demolishing and constructing buildings, this is bound to change. BSRIA believes that when environmental costs are finally converted into financial penalties, through legislation for example, then companies that have established a way of selecting materials with reduced environmental effects could enjoy commercial advantage in the construction sector.
Fiona Lowrie PhD CEng MCIOB is a principal research engineer within BSRIA's Microclimate and Test Group.