Date: 15th May 2020
The importance of embodied carbon data analysis
The threat of climate change and the impact caused by buildings and the built environment has been acknowledged since the 1990’s, but recently, in 2019, architects and engineers declared a Climate Emergency.
The industry has seen significant work in recent years to improve and reduce operational carbon in buildings through improve design, driven largely by regulatory requirements.
When the Government talks about ‘Zero Carbon’, it is referring mainly to operational carbon in use. It is acknowledged however, that by 2030 the vast majority of the carbon impact associated with buildings will be embodied carbon.
It is critical, therefore, that to truly achieve our sustainable development needs and fully realise a decarbonisation vision, embodied carbon within the building structure and fabric is evaluated and minimised.
On Earth Day 2020, we announced the climate action measures we are undertaking as a business and made changes to the way we work. We now analyse the embodied carbon in our structures, measure the tonnage of carbon and appraise low carbon design options.
Through measuring the amount of carbon in our designs, we are looking to raise awareness of our impact and to offer low carbon solutions that can be considered; appraising their impact against other key drivers.
As part of this initiative, we are offering CPD workshops to raise awareness of the climate emergency, the importance of embodied carbon for sustainability and to introduce our 7 steps for managing the issue.
We have developed an embodied carbon assessment toolkit that calculates the carbon in our principal construction materials (e.g. steel, concrete, timber, etc.). This embodied carbon data has been embedded into our REVIT models, so the carbon tonnage can be presented visually. The models highlight the carbon hot spots in our structure, so that our engineers can make informed decisions on where further engineering effort should be focused to minimise the impact of the particular solution. Our holistic approach includes an overview of other sustainability considerations, such as transportation and geotechnical considerations.
Our approach can extend to the civil elements of design, measuring carbon in roads and hardstandings, combining this innovation with our Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) designs.
We have already begun using embodied carbon data to inform our designs, providing lean, low carbon, low waste options. We hope it becomes one step of many to meeting our decarbonisation vision.