30th May 2019 was a Big Day for Embodied Carbon in the UK

As a Board Member of the Alliance for Sustainable Building Products (ASBP), it was great to chair the ASBP event yesterday that marked the launch of the RICS Building Carbon Database, a rebrand of the WRAP Embodied Carbon Database set up with UKGBC in 2014, and alongside it, the launch of an update of Craig Jones’ Inventory of Carbon and Energy (the ICE Database) which will be available to those who didn’t attend the launch from his circularecology website shortly.

RICS are looking to update the Building Carbon Database based on user feedback, and if projects which measure embodied carbon use the data then the benchmarks it provides will be better and more detailed.

craig and ice (2)

Craig shows the data quality information for aggregates

The updated ICE database has used the more than 6000 EPD now available to provide much more information on the embodied carbon of key building materials.  For example, where in the 2011 v2, there was just one figure for aggregate, there are now embodied carbon figures for 10 types of aggregate.  The database will provide data quality indicators, links to the sources and information on the range of values for product types – the data geeks amongst us at the launch can’t wait for the email with the database to arrive this morning!

And yesterday was also the day that 16 architectural practices, winners of the Stirling Prize, declared a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency and committed to act.  For those with a fascination and focus on the embodied impact of materials, they will seek to:

  • Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.
  • Include life cycle costing, whole life carbon modelling and post occupancy evaluation as part of our basic scope of work, to reduce both embodied and operational resource use.
  • Collaborate with engineers, contractors and clients to further reduce construction waste.
  • Accelerate the shift to low embodied carbon materials in all our work.
  • Minimise wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.

At the time of writing (9.30am on 31st May) 225 practices have signed up, which is fantastic news.  You can sign up here – https://www.architectsdeclare.com/.

There are lots of resources out there to help those working on embodied carbon, including the RIBA Whole Life Carbon Guidance, the UKGBC Guide for Clients, the RICS Professional Statement on Whole Life Carbon, UKGBC’s Tackling Embodied Carbon in Buildings, UKGBC and BRE’s How-to Guide  and older publications from WRAP Cutting Embodied Carbon on Procurement, which are still available.

But we know that it is not easy, so the ASBP will be convening a working group in the autumn which I will be leading. The aim of the group is to bring together forward-thinking organisations in the sector (clients, designers, manufacturers, contractors etc) to share learning, fill gaps in knowledge, provide feedback and input to research, standards and policy development, and to increase awareness of embodied carbon and whole life carbon assessment. The group will meet next in the autumn. Please message me if you would be interested in joining.

About constructionlca

Co-author Green Guide to Specification, expert in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), EPDs and sustainability for the construction materials sector Researching Building LCA and how we can increase uptake at the Open University. Tweets as @constructionlca
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