Embodied carbon is the carbon footprint of producing materials. It is steadily gaining attention from both industry and parts of government, where it is now recognised that embodied carbon emissions make up a large fraction of the emissions from the construction sector. In fact, it’s often 20-40% of the whole life (embodied + operational) carbon emissions of a new building. This is already a significant proportion and will only increase as the thermal standards of new buildings improve.
Unlike operational carbon emissions, embodied carbon cannot be reversed. Once they have been released the opportunity for improvement has passed. In contrast...
Reducing Embodied Carbon in Construction
In fact, experience from the infrastructure sector shows that if it is implemented in the correct way embodied carbon assessment can be cost positive. This was explicitly stated in the HM Treasury’s Infrastructure Carbon Review:
“Leading clients and their supply chains have already achieved reductions in capital (embodied) carbon of up to 39 per cent, and 34 per cent in operational carbon. These reductions in carbon have been achieved in association with average reductions in Capex of 22 per cent.”
- HM Treasury, Infrastructure Carbon Review
CLS Holdings, a property investment company which has been listed on the London Stock Exchange since 1994, embarked on an embodied carbon assessment of their Spring Mews development, which is a mixed use scheme in London. The new build development consists of:
- student accommodation (378 x rooms)
- 7 x micro office space
- Hotel (93 x bedrooms)
- Total 16,785 sq m, gross internal floor area
Embodied Carbon Assessment - Carbon Hotspots
- Production of materials = 76% of embodied carbon
- Construction waste = 13%
- Site energy = 10%
- Transport of materials = 1%
The main carbon hotspots were:
- Foundations = 17% of the total embodied carbon
- Building envelope = 22%
- Upper floors and roof = 21%
- Construction site = 23% (10% site energy, 13% site waste)
Value of Embodied Carbon Assessment
Bringing Focus and Value to Future Reduction Efforts
Rowan Packer, Group Sustainability Manager at CLS Holdings, said “As a result of the project and working with Circular Ecology's Dr Craig Jones, we now review and consider the building materials of all our projects, whether it be construction, refurbishment, Capex replacement or demolition. Having a better understanding on embodied carbon allows us to have a greater engagement with our supply chain and also opens conversations on scope 3 emission by default. This in my view is a positive step forward.”
This article was originally published on the Better Building Partnership website.
If you like this post please consider sharing it on social media using the buttons below or signing up to our Newsletter.