Originally published on January 29, 2021 by BNP Media through the Building Enclosure Blog.
Over a tenth of global CO₂ emissions come from building materials
Research suggests that buildings are responsible for about 39% of global CO₂ emissions.
A breakdown of this figure reveals that 28% of global CO₂ emissions can be attributed to building operations – commonly referred to as operational carbon; while the remaining 11% comes from building materials and construction – which is known as embodied carbon.
We must track and reduce embodied carbon in buildings
Recognizing that operational carbon is just one piece of the climate action puzzle, when the American Institute of Architects (AIA) recently relaunched the 2030 Design Data Exchange (DDx) – a free online platform for design firms pursing the 2030 Commitment to tracks and improve upon the energy performance of their entire portfolio – a key new feature was the capability to track embodied carbon.
Unlike operational carbon, which can be reduced throughout a building’s lifetime, embodied carbon is locked in as soon as a building is constructed. As such, tracking embodied carbon is critical.
Scope and LCA stages make a big difference
When it comes to tracking embodied carbon, it is important to be mindful of the scope and life cycle assessment (LCA) “stages” included.
With regard to tracking embodied carbon in the DDx, a team will need to identify which of the following apply to the scope of their assessment:
The scope can make a huge difference in the total embodied carbon figures. A new multi-story commercial building is going to be responsible for much more embodied carbon than a renovation project of the same magnitude.
With regard to LCA stages, most programs that calculate embodied carbon will assess and present information in accordance with standard EN 15978. Moreover, the revamped DDx asks users to clarify which EN 15978 stages were included in embodied carbon figures being offered for a project.
More on life cycle assessment and embodied carbon
What is the difference between LCA, LCI, LCIA, and LCC?
Toward a Decarbonized Built Environment
Embodied Carbon Matters Now More Than Ever