[ASC-media] Media release: building revolution

CRCA Media crca-media at starclass.com.au
Mon Jan 12 22:22:35 EST 2004

Cooperative Research Centres Association Media Release - 04/02

January 13, 2004


An Australian "green calculator" is poised to transform the building and construction industry.

The world-first LCADesign, developed in the Cooperative Research Centre for Construction Innovation, provides property professionals with an instant cost and environmental assessment of any commercial building - straight from its 3D computer graphics.

With future development, the calculator will do the same for the family home, for roads, sewage networks or any major construction project, says the leader of the development team, Dr Peter Newton of CSIRO.

"Working from the 3-dimensional CAD design for a building, the calculator provides an instant display of the volume and cost of all the materials involved in its construction - at the push of a button," Dr Newton says.

"At the same time, it can calculate the environmental impact of all those materials - how many tonnes of clay were used to make them, how much water, how much energy, and how much greenhouse gas and other polluting emissions they made to air, land or water."

This will offer builders, for the first time, the opportunity to instantly redesign or re-specify materials for a building based on both the economic and environmental cost of the materials involved in its construction.

It will also let them see how well the building complies with government, industry, company or project standards.

Dr Newton says that the calculator is linked in real-time to a constantly-updated index of the prices of more than 800 key building materials - concrete, brick, steel, aluminium, glass, timber, and tiles - to obtain an instant read-out of the cost of alternatives.

At the same time it helps the builder to select those materials which have the least environmental impact over their lifetime.

"You can see the "environmental footprint" for the whole building over the lifetime of the materials it embodies.  This allows the builder to choose materials which are most effective over their service life, both economically and environmentally.

"It's a genuine world-first - and we're seeing real interest in it from the North American construction industry where there is currently nothing equivalent," Dr Newton says.

"It is also likely to revolutionise the profession of quantity surveying," he adds.

Behind the LCADesign tool is an extremely powerful Australian-designed software engine, which searches a constantly-updated register of materials prices and a database of their environmental impact.

The calculator will be trialled by leading construction industry and building design firms, including Bovis Lend Lease, engineers Arup PL and Rider Hunt and architects Woods Bagot. From the government side, Building Commission Victoria, Australian Building Codes Board, and Queensland Department of Public Works are key partners in the project.

Dr Newton says the green calculator illustrates a growing competitive advantage in Australian R&D - the ability to combine the best research from contrasting fields coupled with industry focussed partners to drive real outcomes.

"In this case we're seeing the convergence of the best of Australian expertise in IT and software, with our skills in environmental science and assessment as well as design science.  The result is a tool that is likely to put us at world leading edge for sustainable construction."

Construction Innovation envisages commercially releasing the first version of LCADesign following completion of the prototype development in mid-2004.

Chief Executive Officer of Construction Innovation, Dr Keith Hampson, says the calculator will meet an urgent need in the commercial building industry.

"Our industry is likely to remain a major source of environmental degradation if major steps aren't taken now," Dr Hampson explains.

"Commercial buildings have a substantial and multi-level impact on the environment that is predicted to increase in the next few years. On a global scale, they employ ozone-depleting chemicals, contribute to global warming from fossil fuel combustion, and use massive amounts of non-renewable resources. 

"At a local level, new commercial buildings all too often create urban congestion and lead to the degradation of air, water and soil. Even indoors, some of the materials used in the construction of commercial buildings are hazardous.

"This research will provide a practical tool for designers, material producers, government regulators, building owners and managers so they can see the environmental impact of commercial buildings," Dr Hampson says.

More information:
Dr Peter Newton, CSIRO, 03 9252 6126
Dr Keith Hampson, Construction Innovation, 07 3864 9295
Prof. Julian Cribb, CRCA media, 0418 639 245

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