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Embodied carbon reporting guide published

by Mark Cantrell
Winvic, Costain invite AEC professionals to trial embodied carbon calculator

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has published new guidance to help the construction sector improve the way it models and reports on embodied carbon.

Embodied carbon – that is the emissions generated in the production and transportation of products and materials – is increasingly being factored into how new buildings are designed, the organisation explains.

It is also influencing decisions behind whether an existing building should be demolished or re-purposed, but there is currently a lack of consistency and transparency of embodied carbon modelling methods, UKGBC says and this is holding the sector back.

As a result, it does not fully understand the environmental impacts associated with specific building materials, process, and design choices. This results in the true performance of a project being misrepresented, and efforts to reduce the sector’s emissions are hindered.

In response, the UKGBC has published its guidance to enabling more informed and sustainable decision-making across projects. It provides stakeholders with an understanding of best practice, insight into common variations and errors within the modelling process and gives recommendations on how to improve overall reliability of modelling results.

Yetunde Abdul, UKGBC’s head of climate action, said: “Decisions made in the early stages of any construction project such as what materials to use or whether a building can be retrofitted have significant implications on embodied carbon.

“To ensure we make the right decisions in these situations and prevent locking-in high levels of embodied carbon, we need maximum transparency and clarity on the calculations being made during this design and modelling phase.

“Without effective measurement tools, emissions will not be accurately measured and effectively abated. Transparent embodied carbon data is therefore a key pillar in achieving sustainable construction.”

The guidance includes key chapters on:

  • How to understand and use Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs)
  • Understanding default assumptions within the RICS Whole Life Carbon Assessment Professional Standard, and how they’re used within modelling tools
  • How to establish a Quality Assurance process for embodied carbon assessments and provides a template for individuals and organisations who are new to embodied carbon assessments
  • Guidance on how embodied carbon assessments can be expected to develop and change across RIBA Stages
  • Guidance on how to write a high-quality embodied carbon assessment report

This project forms part of UKGBC’s Advancing Net Zero Programme, which has been made possible with the support of our programme partners: BAM Construct UK, Berkeley Group, Buro Happold, CBRE, Grosvenor Property UK, Hoare Lea, ISG, JLL, Lloyds Bank, ROCKWOOL UK,Turner & Townsend, and project partners Hawkins\Brown, Multiplex, and PfP igloo.

Elevating discussion

Louise Clarke, group head of sustainability at Berkeley Group said: “By nature, embodied carbon emissions are hard to measure. They occur throughout our supply chains in a mix of different places and relate to many different processes not under our direct control.

“UKGBC’s guidance provides useful explanations and approaches for achieving greater accuracy and more reliable reporting on embodied carbon, as well as making the case for standard approaches to modelling to drive positive change throughout the industry.”

Turner & Townsend UK advisory managing director, Peter McGettrick added: “We are delighted to have been part of this taskforce to develop this new guidance to improve the consistency and transparency of embodied carbon assessments.

“By providing an independent review of the reporting standards we hope this will provide clarity and confidence in the figures and findings in embodied carbon reports to help support the drive for decarbonisation.

“This new guidance is crucial to elevate discussions on embodied carbon impact within the industry. Consistent reporting will empower more informed decisions regarding cost and carbon and help contribute to achieving national and international governmental targets for net zero.”

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