Embodied Carbon Assessment: Dive Deep into One Click LCA

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In the quest to design sustainable buildings, it is imperative to consider the total environmental impact. While operational carbon — the emissions from heating, cooling, and powering a building — has been the focus for years, embodied carbon is gaining significant attention. Embodied carbon refers to the emissions produced during the manufacturing, transportation, and assembly of building materials. Here, we delve into the intricacies of conducting an embodied carbon assessment using the One Click LCA tool.

Setting the Scene: Parameters in One Click LCA

Before commencing with the transfer of building data from IES VE to One Click LCA and initiating the life cycle assessment, it’s essential to establish the parameters within the One Click LCA project. These parameters effectively serve as the foundation upon which the assessment is built.

  • Service Life Values for Materials: Opting for the ‘technical service life’ means assuming consistent service life settings for materials of the same type. This choice underscores the lifespan of a material in sound condition.

  • Transportation Distance: To attain accurate embodied carbon readings, it’s pivotal to zero in on the transportation distance default values for materials. For our analysis, the UK was identified as the relevant region, considering its extensive data records and benchmarks.

  • End-of-Life Calculation Method: The ‘material-locked’ method was chosen as it portrays the most prevalent end-of-life scenario for the material in a particular market. This approach sidesteps the frequently encountered limitations with the ‘EPD end-of-life scenario’ that often lacks comprehensive data from manufacturers regarding life cycle stages C1–C4.

Design Option Configuration in One Click LCA

Every design option input into One Click LCA must be equipped with detailed specifications to facilitate an accurate assessment:

  • Stage of Construction Process: This was set to RIBA’s ‘2 – Concept Design’, which represents the initial phase of project development.

  • Calculation Tool: We utilized the ‘Whole life carbon assessment, GLA/RICS’ tool to ensure that our calculations were in line with widely accepted industry standards.

  • Scope and Type of Analysis: The pre-defined scope was outlined as ‘RICS: Whole life carbon assessment’ and the project type as ‘Component evaluations only’.

  • Building Elements: Underpinning the construction was a ‘Timber frame’ while the key components included were ‘Foundations and substructure’ and ‘Structure and enclosure’.

Mandatory Data Inputs: The Building Blocks

For a precise and thorough embodied carbon assessment:

  • Building Materials: Central to the assessment, the accurate quantity of building materials was primarily sourced from IES VE.

  • Energy Consumption: Considering the outputs from IES VE and data provided by CEPRO on domestic utilities, the energy consumption input was calibrated accordingly.

  • Construction Site Operations: Given the absence of specific project details at this juncture, the impact from construction site operations was set to null.

  • Calculation Period: Sticking to the RICS guidance for domestic projects, the reference study period was marked at 60 years.

  • Building Area: The aggregate internal floor area was chalked out at 363 m2, encompassing three buildings, each measuring 121 m2.

Challenges & Limitations: Navigating the Assessment Landscape

While One Click LCA is a potent tool, like any technology, it comes with its challenges. A noteworthy mention is the necessity for manual adjustment in the material data of upper floors due to software constraints. Despite these hurdles, it’s the rigorous commitment to detail that ensures the precision of the final assessment.

Conclusion: The Future of Sustainable Building Design

Embracing tools like One Click LCA is not just about adhering to industry benchmarks; it’s a commitment to the future. As global efforts shift toward mitigating climate change impacts, it’s incumbent upon industry professionals to prioritize both operational and embodied carbon in their designs. The goal is to produce sustainable structures that harmonize with the environment while serving human needs efficiently.

Categories: LCA