TOTEM: Tool to Optimise the Total Environmental impact of Materials

The web-based calculation tool TOTEM, which was launched in 2018, allows to assess the environmental impact of buildings over their whole life cycle. The TOTEM tool was developed as part of a collaboration between the three Belgian regional authorities. The consortium of VITO / EnergyVille, KU Leuven, BBRI, UC Louvain and ICEDD is currently responsible for the quality and support related to the updates and future developments of the TOTEM tool.

TOTEM (“Tool to Optimise the Total Environmental impact of Materials”) is a user-friendly web-tool that allows building stakeholders to assess the environmental impact of buildings and building elements over the whole building life cycle. The tool focuses on building designers and aims at being transparent and objective. The basis for the tool is a method and expert model called MMG (“Environmental profile of building elements”), developed with the aim to consistently conduct an environmental impact assessment of building elements and buildings in Belgium. The method uses Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and includes various environmental indicators – including those used in EN15804 – and an aggregated single score based on the PEF weighting approach.

Features of TOTEM:

  • Easy to use and transparent
  • Easy interpretation through the calculation of aggregated single scores
  • Calculations at the building & building element level
  • Library of generic building elements in line with Belgian construction practices
  • Allows the comparison of different building solutions

At this moment, TOTEM is mainly based on generic environmental data. Since 2020, data from specific manufacturers or sector organisations coming from Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) can also be integrated in TOTEM. With this feature, TOTEM users are able to compare building solutions  from different manufacturers. This will allow architects and contractors to make informed choices related to the environmental impact of building materials.

Future features of TOTEM:

  • Extended library of building elements and components
  • Further integration of specific data (EPDs)
  • Assessment of refurbishments
  • Assessment of circularity
  • Compatibility with Building Information Modelling (BIM)
  • Integration with other sustainability assessment tools (e.g. BREEAM, GRO)
  • Benchmarking

VITO / EnergyVille has been involved in the development of the Belgian LCA method MMG from the beginning in 2010 and updated the method and related calculation model over the years. VITO / EnergyVille contributed to the development of TOTEM by supporting the IT developers and providing the necessary data and calculation algorithms. Current activities of VITO / EnergyVille are updating and further developing TOTEM and ensuring correct integration of EPDs in TOTEM.

Damien Trigaux, Senior Researcher at EnergyVille/VITO

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