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Paper aims to get measure of embodied carbon

RICS presented the first information paper for the measurement of embodied carbon at Ecobuild 2012, acting on recommendations set out in the government’s Low Carbon Construction action plan.

The plan recommended a requirement to conduct a whole-life carbon appraisal; ensuring embodied carbon is considered at every stage of the construction process as well as during operation.

To achieve this, a standard method of measuring embodied carbon is required, agreed by both government and industry.

RICS’s paper, which has been published as an exposure draft of this proposed measurement, is the first step towards enabling government and industry agreement. RICS will collect feedback from the industry over the coming months to inform a final published version of the paper in July.

Planning needed

The new information paper stresses the importance of developing a methodological plan for measuring embodied carbon and gives comparisons between the levels of embodied carbon within new-build versus refurbishment.

Calculation methodologies (including assessment boundaries), tools and data sources for measuring carbon are included, as well as a step-by-step guide that shows how to conduct an assessment during the following phases of a building project:

  • Design;
  • Materials and product manufacture.

Guidance for the construction, in-use and refurbish/demolish stages are under development.

The embodied carbon shows the results of a selection of high-impact building elements such as ground-floor construction, frame and foundations as well as how carbon reduction measurements can affect these.

The note also details a series of case studies of embodied carbon assessments undertaken on high-profile projects, including the Farringdon Station redevelopment and the Leadenhall Building, both in London.

This is the start of what will probably be a long journey to an industry-standard method for carbon measurement and accounting.

But the paper is an important first step in terms of introducing a carbon assessment system, supporting the government’s ambition for requirements for whole-life (embodied and operational) carbon appraisals to be factored into feasibility studies.

This ensures contractors’ ability to deliver on clients’ carbon targets and the construction industry’s contribution to the UK carbon reduction agenda.

Pending industry feedback, RICS will also be undertaking further work and extending the information paper to support challenges such as how to deal with the carbon at the end-of-life stage, where there is significant potential for recovering and recycling products.

RICS will also be supporting ongoing work into the creation of a carbon assessment data structure that follows standard industry data calculations - critical to successful carbon accounting.

Martin Russell-Croucher is director of sustainability and special projects at RICS



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