Tackling embodied carbon – New report launched today

23 September 2019
Buildings and the construction sector are responsible for nearly 40% of annual global carbon emissions – that’s a well-known fact. But less known is that 28% of those emissions are embodied in the materials used in the construction of buildings. Ramboll has co-authored a new report by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) on reducing embodied carbon in buildings.
Dalston Works completed

Dalston Works completed

Phil Kelly

Phil Kelly

Head of sustainability and building physics
T: +44 7583 089 005

For years the focus has been on reducing operational emissions from buildings but as shown by research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), achieving drastic cuts in all carbon emissions over the next decade is critical to limiting global temperature rise to 1.5oC.

“Almost one third of total lifecycle CO2 emissions from buildings stem from the embodied carbon in materials and the construction process. Addressing these sources of carbon will be critical in meeting the UK’s 2050 target in response to the Paris agreement” says Phil Kelly, UK Head of Sustainability for Buildings at Ramboll.

What is embodied Carbon

The report, launched at the 10th annual World Green Building Week, represents a bold new vision for how buildings and infrastructure around the world can reach 40% less carbon emissions by 2030, and achieve 100% net zero emissions buildings by 2050. Embodied carbon is the carbon footprint of a material. It considers how many greenhouse gases (GHGs) are released throughout the supply chain and is often measured from cradle to (factory) gate, or cradle to site (of use) and includes energy consumption in the manufacturing process and for the logistics. 

Methodologies for Life Cycle Assessments 

Phil Kelly continues: “Designers must create awareness and help building owners minimise the carbon footprint across the lifetime of their buildings. Methodologies like Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) give a solid basis for quantifying the emissions associated with various design solutions, and then integrating tools like Building Information Models (BIM) can accelerate sustainable decision making for maximum impact.”

Innovation and improved processes to calculate, track and report embodied carbon and creating greater awareness are some of the levers that are highlighted in the report as means to address embodied carbon emissions. The report presents a route of actions that designers, investors, manufacturers, government, NGOs and researchers across the whole value chain can take to accelerate decarbonisation, address current market barriers and develop low carbon alternative solutions for the market. Read the report.  

About the World Green Building Council

The World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) is a global network leading the transformation of the built environment, to make it healthier and more sustainable. Collectively, with our Green Building Councils (GBCs) in around 70 countries, WorldGBC accelerates action to deliver on the ambition of the Paris Agreement, by eliminating the building and construction sector´s emissions by 2050. WorldGBC is committed to green buildings for everyone, everywhere to build a better future.

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