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Wed July 24 2024

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Carbon calculator research secures funding

1 Dec 20 Construction companies Winvic and Costain have joined forces for a research project to develop a better way to calculate the embedded carbon of a building.

Winvic and Costain are part of a team working on an embodied carbon calculator that exploits artificial intelligence and building information management (BIM) data.

Their project, called AI System for Predicting Embodied Carbon in Construction, or ASPEC, has been given an £800,000 grant by Innovate UK. They are working with the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and an IT consultant called Edgetrix Ltd.

While construction organisations continue to make advances in how they address both embodied and operational carbon emissions, current calculation methods for embedded carbon are considered to be tricky; with no design support calculation solution, there is no efficient way for design teams to drive down the embodied carbon and carbon footprint of projects.

The proposed ASPEC has three components to promote carbon reduction:

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  • AI-based embodied carbon calculator (ECC):  This will predict the embodied carbon cost of any project from its BIM model. It will use historic embodied carbon data from previous construction projects and accurate ‘carbon factors’ to develop machine learning models. The creation of the ECC will reduce the time it takes to calculate embodied carbon, from potentially days or weeks to just a few hours.
  • Embodied carbon analytics and simulation platform (ECAS):  This cloud-platform will enable what-if analyses of the embodied carbon of schemes during the design phase. The tool will use advanced big data analytics to identify alternative design specifications that would reduce the embodied carbon of a project. A user of ECAS will be able to change the selection of a building material and obtain an immediate embodied carbon figure.
  • BIM-based design support tool for embodied carbon analytics (B-DST): This will also support the design stages of construction projects. It will integrate with existing BIM development software via an application programming interface (API).

Winvic technical director Tim Reeve, who is project lead, said: “Following the announcement of government [carbon reduction] targets paired with BREEAM sustainability requirements, construction organisations and clients have worked hard to reduce emissions, but the task certainly isn’t simple. That’s why we believe that utilising the most up-to-date AI and advanced big data analytics techniques in a way that has never been done before will be transformational for Winvic’s green agenda and pave the way for significant changes across the whole industry.

“Having the ability to optimise schemes and see embodied carbon costs as real-time design and material changes are applied will naturally lead to quantifiable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and having technology that automatically estimates the embodied carbon cost of any digitally designed project will make the delivery of many project tasks much faster.

“It’s very exciting to be working on ASPEC – our third Innovate UK funded initiative – with Costain, UWE and Edgetrix and together we aim to deliver these two primary benefits of the project to the industry as early as autumn 2022.”

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