Strategies to Reduce Embodied carbon in the Built Environment
Transparency is becoming a more important demand of consumersParticularly around sustainability and environmental practiceshas implications on industries from apparel to healthcare products. Mars Inc. released recently a Cocoa sourcing mapto reduce deforestation and increase accountability Fashion Transparency IndexApparel companies are encouraged to be more transparent about their environmental and social efforts.
It is now that the building industry, which is characterized by a lack information about materials and practices used during construction and throughout a building’s lifecycle, needs to catch up. It is impossible to ignore the high cost of inaction. Buildings account for 39 percent global carbon emissions. The majority of carbon reduction efforts in the sector of buildings focus on operational carbona buildings every energy use, which accounts approximately 28 percent. The remaining 11 percent is embodied carbon, which is often overlooked.
It includes all emissions from building construction including extraction, transportation, manufacture, and installation on-site. Also, operational and end-of life emissions. It is also largely Carbon upfrontThe greenhouse gas emissions released in the early stages of a human life cycle cannot be reversed. The magnitude of embodied greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030 dwarfs any incremental impact of operational carbon. Therefore, the immediate focus on embodied Carbon reductions must be the next decade. We will be discussing strategies to reduce it within the built environment in this post.
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Strategies to Reduce Embodied carbon across Typologies
The following strategies can be used to reduce embodied CO2 in the built environment. They can be applied across different types of buildings and sectors.
1- Select Low-Carbon Materials
According to Architecture 2030Concrete, steel, aluminum and steel account for 23 percent of global emissions. These high-impact materials offer great opportunities for carbon reduction through policy, design and material selection. A McKinsey report about embodied carbon in buildingsAccording to this explanation, two materials may appear identical, cost the same, perform to the same standard, but have totally different embodied Carbon characteristics. A 100 percent-recycled-steel beam may look identical to one made from virgin steel but have significantly different levels. Further complexity comes from the origins of each steel beam and its transportation.
To achieve embodied carbon savings, it is important to use less materials without sacrificing quality. It is also important to select the right building materials with recyclable contents. Recycling aggregates, greener concrete options or FSC certified timber can help reduce embodied carbon. Suppliers should source certified sustainable materials from suppliers who have made transparent environmental product declarations and are a net zero carbon business.
Although it is difficult to identify the embodied CO2 in a particular material, some materials have lower embodied CO2 than others, such as mass and cross-laminated wood (CLT). CLT is particularly useful in healthcare buildings. As demonstrated by the Ohana Center in Behavioral Health in California. CLTs low carbon footprint and its benefits can be a benefit to hospitals, which are often some of the most energy-intensive buildings in the world. Biophilic properties that reduce anxiety. CLT is also well-suited for modular construction and offsite assembly. This is often faster, cheaper, and more sustainable than traditional building methods.
2-Perform a Whole-Building Life Cycle Analysis
The life cycle analysis of a building is the measurement of its potential environmental impact. After material selection, a whole-building life cycle analysis allows designers to identify sustainable alternatives and highlight potential environmental issues. Life cycle analyses are a compilation of relevant material inputs as well as the associated environmental outputs (for instance, climate change), and interpretation of the results to make environmentally responsible choices.
As the importance of addressing embodied CO2 increases, protocols and methodologies for measuring it in a standardised way are continuing to emerge. For example, PublicationsThese tools can be used to provide guidance and suggest benchmarks and targets to assess the embodied Carbon of buildings and construction materials. Zero Guide is an internal tool designed by our firm that estimates the carbon equivalent to emissions associated with every aspect of a project and makes educated recommendations about how to lower it.
3- Implement low carbon procurement policies
Concrete designers can request information on the embodied carbon footprint of mix designs for some major materials, such as concrete. If performance requirements are specified, there are many mixes that can meet the design intent. This allows you to select the compliant bid, which can be based on cost and carbon footprint. This will result in significant savings. The Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3)This database contains free construction environmental product declarations (EPDs), and a matching building impact calculator that can be used in design and material procurement. For example: Microsoft commits to becoming carbon-negative by 2030This means that emissions will be reduced across all operations, from buildings to datacenters. Redmond, Washington’s new headquarters employs innovative energy-saving methods such as geothermal water wells. This pilot program is also for EC3.
4- Invest in Carbon Offsets
To offset ongoing building emissions, the embodied CO2 from new construction or renovations can also be offset by a one-time purchase. This will eliminate all construction emissions. Transparency is a prerequisite for selecting, analyzing and purchasing embodied carbon.
Carbon-based decision making is crucial to effectively reverse climate change, and make our planet healthier. We can reduce the built environment’s carbon footprint and spur meaningful change by addressing operational carbon first, then embodied carbon later. This is possible through low carbon materials, building lifecycle analysis and low carbon procurement policies.
This article was Original publicationIn The Architect’s Newspaper.