Reducing embodied carbon

Goal: Achieving optimal design and construction to reduce embodied carbon

What is embodied carbon?

p172. This is the material used to construct a building, how these materials are transported to the construction site, and how these materials were originally made or extracted as raw material (this is called embodied emissions). Many different materials can be used for erecting a building. Some examples are steel, timber and concrete. Each material has a different carbon footprint;

What design approach to take:

p173. Applicants are encouraged to minimise the embodied carbon of a building, focusing on its material fabric. This is because typically the materials that form the fabric of a building account for the largest amount of embodied carbon. The material fabric of a building refers to the physical elements separating the indoor environment from the outdoors, consisting of the frame, structure and insulation that make up the foundations, walls, floors, and roof;

p174. Minimising embodied carbon through the material fabric of a building can be achieved by re-using materials and structures, or lmit carbon-intensive materials;

p175. Combining the operational and embodied carbon emissions for a building over its expected lifespan amounts to understanding the whole life-cycle of its carbon emissions. To understand this, you should undertake a ‘Whole life-cycle carbon assessment’ (WLC assessment). WLC assessments help to provide a real understanding of the sustainability of our design choices and their impact on the environment;

Factors to consider:

  • Construction
  • Operational energy
  • Reduced construction impacts
  • Scale and massing (thermal massing)
  • Increase renewable energy supply
  • Carbon offsetting

Whole life-cycle carbon assessment

Figure 84

  Figure 63: Identify carbon reductions in the key stages of a Whole life-cycle carbon assessment

The scheme should:

    1. use sustainably sourced and accredited low embodied carbon materials.
    2. use locally sourced materials.

We support:

    1. Reducing materials with high carbon footprints, (materials whose production process have high carbon emissions).
    2. Whole Life-Cycle Carbon assessments submitted as supporting documentation as part of a planning application, focusing on the product and construction stages. (A building’s product and construction stages are defined as modules A1-A5 of the RICS Professional Statement PS. RICS Guidance must be followed).
    3. The off-setting of carbon emissions through a recognised scheme (this should be the last resort and off-setting should be local where possible).
    4. Net zero carbon developments.

Note: All design principles are applicable to all scales of development unless otherwise specified; *minor applications, **major applications