Workstream 4: Resource use and embodied carbon
Calculations for and reporting on embodied carbon must become industry standard. Methodologies and databases for this are already in development.
The workstream is looking at protocols for minimising waste and for re-use of materials to be established, implemented and monitored. The initial focus is carbon and the climate emergency but in time this should expand to cover all resources and respond to wider construction issues.
This workstream is led by the Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE) and includes measurable deliverables divided into three priority groupings: short-term, medium term and long term.
What have we achieved in one year of the plan?
To support and raise awareness of what is in place or being developed, workstream 4 convened a webinar in September 2021 that covered the following topics:
- UKGBC Whole Life Carbon Road Map Project (https://www.ukgbc.org/ukgbc-wo...)
- LETI Embodied Carbon and Whole Life Carbon one pages (https://www.leti.london/one-pa...)
- Embodied carbon target alignment work (led by LETI)
- Zero carbon definitions with WLCN and RIBA
- Built Environment Carbon databases (led by RICS) https://www.becd.co.uk/
Two further initiatives are:
- Part Z: an initiative to get embodied carbon into building regulations, recognizing that operational carbon is already covered under Part L energy use.
- More recently in May 2022, CIC members and others have collaborated to launch a UK Net Zero Carbon Building Standard initiative https://www.nzcbuildings.co.uk/
How do Professional institutions build on what is in place, and support and equip their membership to act today?
IStructE has published a Sustainability Resource Map (https://www.istructe.org/resources/climate-emergency/) , with hyperlinks to all documents referenced. All 7 topics are of relevance to other CIC members. In the context of this workstream fellow CIC members are encouraged to use the resources identified in the mapping under the topics of Low Carbon, Lean Design and Zero Waste. These will be directly relevant or will provide ideas and templates for specific actions.
Further webinars are being planned for this workstream to help collaboration and share the progress of the individual participants.
- Part Z
This proposed Building Regulations amendment ‘Part Z’ and Proposed Document Z outlines requirements on the assessment of whole life carbon emissions, and limiting of embodied carbon emissions, for all major building projects.
- RICS Building Carbon Database
The aim of the database is to allow users to identify where associated carbon emission reductions can be made, during all stages of a building's life cycle. To access the data, users are required to input construction project data into the database (both theoretical and completed projects), which in turn allows users to estimate/benchmark whole life carbon emissions. For organisations who submit their data, the database is free to use.
- LETI Embodied Carbon Primer
This document is intended to provide designers including architects, engineers, interior designers and urban designers with easy-to-follow best practice and toolkits for reducing embodied carbon in buildings.
The document can also aid planners to be aware of strategies available to designers to reduce embodied carbon in building design, and how planning recommendations on materials, massing and treatment of sites may affect embodied carbon.
- A Brief Guide to Calculating Embodied Carbon (article)
Explainer on how to calculate Embodied Carbon
- How to Calculate Embodied Carbon
Calculating embodied carbon in the same rigorous way across all
designs will allow meaningful comparisons to be made between structural
This guidance is equally applicable to infrastructure and building projects. The calculation of embodied carbon must become a key part of every design process. Such efforts support the immediate need to reduce resource demand and increase reuse and recycling to enable a circular economy.