Mark Tillett from HTS kick-started our masterclass programme for the new year with his illuminating talk about embodied carbon and the benefits of structural retention. The shift of focus to embodied carbon is a fundamental step towards meeting the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge for Net Zero Buildings.
Until now, sustainable design has largely focussed on operational carbon: the emissions associated with the heating, cooling and power of a building. A lot of progress has been made in this area, through designing more efficient systems and the shift to renewable electricity. Operational carbon emissions therefore make up a smaller percentage of the total impact of a building than they did in the past. Today, for a typical new building, embodied carbon will make up around 50-70% of its total lifetime emissions, with structure making up around half of the embodied carbon.
Whole life carbon thinking aims to reduce both operational carbon emissions and the carbon embodied in the construction of the building. A whole life carbon assessment considers all the carbon emissions associated with the building over its projected life span, measured as a single figure in kgCO2e/m2 – kilograms carbon dioxide equivalent per square metre.
For more information have a look at RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge for Net Zero Buildings – particularly pages 19-30.
Whole life carbon is a key part of the Orms sustainability action plan for 2020 – so watch this space!