Measuring Embodied Carbon

To decarbonise the built environment, we need to reduce the greenhouse gases (GHG) that are emitted during the construction of our assets - the Embodied Carbon. Understanding where these emissions are generated, and reducing them accordingly, is critical if we want to deliver net zero assets.

Kester Purslow, Senior Director gives an insight into how we tackle embodied carbon when delivering low carbon design solutions on behalf of our clients.

Assessing Embodied Carbon

The reduction of embodied carbon is included in our 7-stage design approach where we complete a Lifecycle Carbon Assessment (LCA) to measure and reduce a project’s carbon emissions. Embodied carbon is generated from:

  • The extraction of materials
  • Manufacture and processing of materials
  • Transportation and construction processes
  • Ongoing maintenance
  • Eventual demolition/removal at the end of life and processing of any waste


Tailored solutions to measure embodied carbon

As the importance of embodied carbon targets increases, so does the number of solutions available to help measure it, depending on the project type and scale. Not every project requires a full-scale, whole-building life-cycle assessment. Depending on the nature and size of their project, we provide our clients with the solution that meets their individual needs. 

When we have a clear idea of the sources of embodied carbon, we can set about measuring their contribution to total emissions and looking at alternative designs or offsetting solutions.

Addressing the Hot Spots

As part of our Net Zero approach to design, we carry out a sustainability workshop at the project outset. At this early stage, we identify the likely hot spots in the development that will be responsible for a large proportion of the embodied carbon. In buildings, this might be the foundations, basement and structural frame. In infrastructure, materials like concrete, asphalt and steel can form a high proportion of the overall score. Our design team will focus on strategies that avoid or reduce the materials and construction systems with a high carbon impact.

A spotlight on Oneclick LCA software to deliver low carbon projects

Monitoring carbon as projects evolve and move through the design and construction stages can be complex and time consuming, especially when reviewing and calculating the impacts of multiple design options. The quality of the data used is important, so we need to ensure we are using the most accurate data as we investigate and manage the carbon impacts and optimise designs to get best value.

To improve accuracy and speed of assessments we use OneClick LCA, industry recognised, and planning authority accepted, life cycle assessment software which has numerous benefits for detailed and involved projects. OneClick LCA:

  • Follows a consistent assessment procedure to allow more accurate comparisons of design options
  • Easily conducts initial assessments for scoping studies
  • Allows multiple design options to be assessed and compared simultaneously
  • Integrates with appropriate BIM models allowing better more accurate data transfer
  • Is easily understood output presented in clear format and graphics highlighting carbon hotspots and areas to concentrate efforts in reductions
  • Is compatible with earning BEEAM/LEED credits for sustainability assessments

How can we help?

Embodied carbon is not a fixed metric, as industries improve processes and data, and the electricity and gas grids are decarbonised, there will be variations to emissions at differing rates across differing industries and territories. Constant monitoring, measuring and management of what we are doing well, will enable us to provide best advice and make the most appropriate design choices for projects. By reducing embodied carbon, we will also improve the economic viability of your assets.

Get in touch


Conall Boland

Senior consultant - Sustainability +353 (0) 14882900 EMAIL
View profile »
Dublin - West Pier | Ireland

Kester Purslow

Senior Director – Architecture +44 (0) 1636 605 700 EMAIL
Newark | UK
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Andrew Tasker

Senior Consultant 01235 821 888 EMAIL
Abingdon | UK

Driving the transition to a net zero future

We're proud members of the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), an industry-led organisation on a mission to radically improve the sustainability of the built environment, transforming the way it’s planned, designed, constructed, maintained and operated.

We have also pledged to Pledge to Net Zero, joining organisations from across the environmental services sector to take a leadership role in the transition to a Net Zero carbon future. We have pledged to set and deliver a greenhouse target and publicly report our emissions and progress each year.

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