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Whole life carbon

Increasingly clients and their design teams are using whole-life assessments as the basis for long-term decisions. Conventionally, this has meant applying economic measures of initial construction costs and costs-in-use. Now, however, we are being asked to carry out lifecycle analysis (LCA) of environmental impacts.

Energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are often seen as interchangeable drivers in design – reducing the energy use of a building through improved design leads directly to a reduction in GHG emissions. But buildings contribute to emissions over their entire lifecycle, so design must take a wider perspective: the whole-life emissions of a building are the sum of both its operational and its embodied emissions. Furthermore, emissions are not the only measure of a sustainable design – a building often performs better over the full lifecycle due to lower whole-life maintenance costs and energy use. Find out more about Low Carbon Masonry Homes.

Many of these broader aspects are being considered as part of BRE’s Home Quality Mark, offering buyers a comprehensive picture of the performance of new housing. Meanwhile, the cement, brick and concrete industries have produced a range of environmental product declarations (EPDs), which provide data on the embodied impacts of masonry construction.

The RIBA Climate Challenge 2030 introduces targets for the embodied carbon of different types of buildings. A carbon study by Xtratherm found that traditional homes, built with masonry, have an embodied carbon similar to that of equivalent timber homes. Both types of buildings can meet the RIBA Climate Challenge 2030 targets. You can find more information by downloading the Xtratherm study here.

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