Taking Urgent Strides to Accelerate the Embodied Carbon Emissions Learning Curve – A Recap

In May 2021, experts from Kingspan, KieranTimberlake, WSP and Building Transparency came together to discuss the strides and development on education and innovations regarding embodied carbon within the design and construction industries.

Education and knowledge sharing

Moderator Brent Trenga, Director of Sustainability at Kingspan, kicked off the discussion of with a conversation surrounding necessary education on embodied carbon, and how this can be implemented in future strategies and projects of decision makers, construction organisations, designers and other key market players. He asked which basic steps need to be address in the path towards reducing embodied carbon. Stacy Smedley, Executive Director at Building Transparency and Director of Sustainability with Skanska: “That is depending on what your role is in this process – whether you are an owner, architect, engineer or contractor, there is specific steps and tasks for each to play. There is a process that overrides all of that that we are all tapping into. So, what we see is that some owners, architects, engineers, contractors, or teams are looking at how to set benchmarks first. How do we understand what our buildings could emit in terms of embodied carbon? What can we back as projects and then actually start to understand what our footprints currently are and then really focus on reductions after that? Others are just digging into analyzing a project and not doing the benchmarks and just getting into the details of using tools like Tally for life cycle assessment to try to look at materials versus materials or systems choices early in design. Others are starting at the specs of procurement phase which is where you can start looking at product versus product carbon to try to inform low carbon material choices. And at the end you have to track all of that. That’s the whole process, some try to do all of it and some just try to pick off one of those pieces and really dig in to understand one aspect there is no right answer.”

Sourcing, manufacturing and implementing low to no carbon materials

The discussion moved on to address design and build environment and development on sourcing low to no carbon materials on all aspects of new and retrofitted buildings. Brent asked: “How can project stakeholders work together to reduce embodied carbon impacts?”. Ben Stanley, Senior Consultant for Sustainability, Energy and Climate Change at WSP highlighted the importance of communication: “One thing to talk about is signalling. If you are thinking about a project, if you build many projects is getting the word out to the teams that work with you and say ‘hey this is an important priority for us’ - if you have it, share the goal that you are looking for, for your project or your group of buildings, so that everybody down the chain of the project team can understand that and help you to meet your goal. What we find is that they want to. Folks are looking to be leaders in this area and they will help to find better solutions than you can come up with as a single organisation.

Tools to support embodied carbon tracking

The last part of the webinar focused on development of software tools to support design teams, contractors and manufacturers. Brent asked the panellists: “How do I choose the right tool? Or when should I use those tools? For someone new – what does this look like?”. Ryan Welch, Principal at KieranTimberlake, said: There is a wider ecosystem of tools – I can name a few of them that are out there, including Tally, EC3, Vecan, Asterisk, Oneclick LCA, CGF, Pathfinder, Athena, Edge. There is a whole lot of resources out there and I think each tool or resource has its own strengths and weaknesses. […] Tally answers two questions that are central to preforming LCA and embodied carbon checks: what do you have in your building and how much of it do you have? It is able to leverage some quantity to take off out of it and balance those based on what you as the designer know you have modelled. But it is dealing with generic performance requirements. By enlarge not dealing with individual manufacturer specific products because likely at the time you are doing that work in a BIM model you don’t know that level of information. That’s where EC3 comes in. EC3 is taking an approach that you by enlarge. .the vast majority of information in there is product specific EPDs. You also have industry averages but the critical locust is that you are already at the point of having a pretty good sense of how much have in your building and now it is about articulating based on the performance requirements you’ve set up, what your flexibility is in making these substitutions. If you are trying to do very targeted assessments of things like concrete then by all means, CGF has this great concrete mix design calculator. There are plenty of other tools out there that are targeted towards very specific questions and studies.


The webinar concluded with a Q&A where speakers answers some of the audience’s most burning questions. Did you miss the webinar or would you like to rewatch it? No problem! You can watch the webinar on-demand here: https://www.netzerobuildsummit.com/webinar-series-2021/


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