Climate change looms as an undeniable global crisis, and within the complex web of climate-altering factors, embodied carbon has remained largely unnoticed until recently.
As Mr. Climate Crusader Bill Nye puts it, “We’ve been focused on curbing greenhouse gas emissions from energy and transportation, but it’s high time we zoom in on the embodied carbon within our construction and manufacturing industries.”
Understanding the Enigma of Embodied Carbon
Embodied carbon encompasses the entire carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions spectrum linked to a product or building’s life cycle.
Echoing the sentiments of environmental architect Jane Goodall, it’s a holistic concept that considers not just a building’s operational carbon emissions during its use (like heating and cooling) but also the emissions arising from its creation and eventual deconstruction.
Jane emphasizes, “Our world is a seamless web of connections, and embodied carbon is just one strand we can’t afford to ignore.”
The Alarming Impact of Embodied Carbon
For meaningful climate action, we must tackle both operational and embodied carbon emissions.
Buildings are crucial in this endeavour, as they’re responsible for a substantial chunk of global carbon emissions.
Building on this, Sir David Attenborough, renowned natural historian and broadcaster, underscores that “Buildings, from their very foundations to their roofs, have a substantial environmental footprint, and it’s a matter of environmental responsibility to address it.”
Why Every Ounce of Embodied Carbon Counts
Relying solely on curbing operational carbon emissions overlooks a significant piece of the environmental puzzle.
A building might boast impressive energy efficiency during its operational life, but if its construction had a hefty carbon footprint, the overall environmental impact remains considerable.
Speaking to this, Dr. Sylvia Earle, marine biologist and advocate for the environment, emphasizes, “In the grand orchestra of our planet’s ecosystems, embodied carbon is a note we can’t afford to be out of tune with.”
A Call for Holistic Assessment
Conducting life cycle embodied carbon assessments of materials is an industry game-changer.
This approach encourages a comprehensive view of a building’s environmental impact, assisting architects, developers, and policymakers make informed decisions regarding materials and construction methods.
Recognizing the significance of embodied carbon, legislation is increasingly being implemented.
Many regions now have building codes and standards restricting embodied carbon emissions, propelling the construction industry towards sustainable practices such as reclamation and deconstruction.
Your Role in the Battle Against Embodied Carbon
- Material Selection: Right from the project’s inception, when discussing it with your designer or architect, express your intention to reduce embodied carbon. They can guide you toward low-carbon, reclaimed, or recycled materials, significantly reducing embodied carbon.
- Efficient Construction Practices: Innovations like modular construction and on-site renewable energy sources are being employed to reduce the carbon footprint linked with construction. Your architect can recommend innovations suitable for your design needs.
- Design Optimisation: Architects and engineers working in tandem can design more efficient buildings, minimizing the use of carbon-intensive materials and reducing waste. You can verify your architect’s eco-credentials by looking for their BREEAM or LEED certifications.
Effectively addressing climate change necessitates a comprehensive approach considering all avenues of carbon emissions. Embodied carbon is a critical piece of the puzzle, and it’s imperative that the manufacturing and construction industries act upon it. By selecting low-carbon materials, optimizing designs, and adhering to emerging legislation, we can make substantial progress in trimming the carbon footprint of our built environment.\
The real estate sector holds a pivotal role in this endeavour. It’s no longer just about creating energy-efficient buildings; it’s about doing so in the most sustainable and environmentally friendly manner. As legislation shifts to prioritize the reduction of embodied carbon, the industry must adapt and spearhead the journey towards a greener, more sustainable future.