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. But not every project requires a whole building life-cycle assessment - we provide our clients with tailored solutions.

How is embodied carbon generated?

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
How embodied carbon is generated infographic

How to measure embodied carbon

Not every project requires a full-scale, whole-building life-cycle assessment to measure embodied carbon. Depending on the nature and size of the project, we provide our clients with the solution that meets their individual needs.

The reduction of embodied carbon is included in our 7-stage design approach where we complete a Lifecycle Carbon Assessment (LCA).

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

Seven stage framework to design for net zero carbon buildings and infrastructure

Addressing the carbon 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.


Software that delivers 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 the accuracy and speed of assessments, we use OneClick LCA, life cycle assessment software that is industry recognised and accepted by planning authorities. With 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 more accurate data transfer
  • Is easily understood, presented in clear format with graphics highlighting carbon hotspots and areas to concentrate reduction efforts
  • 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 electricity and gas grids are decarbonised, emissions will vary in rate depending on the industry and territory. Constant monitoring, measuring and management of what we are doing well will enable us to provide the best advice and employ appropriate design choices for projects. By reducing embodied carbon, we will also improve the economic viability of your assets.

Ground up view of city buildings with gardens and trees

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.

UKGBC and Pledge to Net Zero logos

Get in touch

Headshot of Conall Boland.

Conall Boland

Sustainability - Senior Consultant T: +353 1 488 2900 Email
View profile »
Dublin - West Pier | Ireland

Kester Purslow

Senior Director – Architecture T: +44 (0) 1636 605 700 Email
Newark | UK
Andrew Dearing

Andrew Tasker

Associate Director - EIA & Sustainability T: 01235 821 888 Email
Abingdon | UK

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