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RICS explains how to measure embodied carbon

23 Aug 12 RICS has launched an information paper on how to measure the carbon embodied in materials as the first step to enabling whole-life carbon appraisals on building projects.

The paper 'Methodology to measure embodied carbon of materials', responds directly to the government’s low carbon construction action plan, published in June 2011. The action plan called for embodied carbon to be considered at every stage of the construction process as well as during operation. To achieve this, a standard method of measuring embodied carbon was required.

The paper is aimed at quantity surveyors, building surveyors, building control surveyors and project managers and sets out a practical approach by which carbon emissions during the construction of a building can be measured. The methodology has been developed following industry-wide consultation, which RICS said saw an unprecedented response from stakeholders and industry bodies. Possible extensions for the future include a measurement for sequestration, the carbon captured in wood building materials.

Martin Russell-Croucher, director of sustainability and special projects RICS, who managed the development of the paper said: “This paper is an important first step in producing a carbon assessment system which will support and enable our members to deliver whole-life (embodied + operational) carbon appraisals in line with government ambitions for these to be factored into feasibility studies. By using this methodology our members can therefore contribute to the wider UK carbon reduction agenda.”

Lead author of the paper, Sean Lockie, said: "Embodied carbon is really significant because it is carbon emissions we emit today through manufacturing the products we use on our projects. In construction, carbon is emitted during the construction process through the extraction and processing of resources to make building materials like cement, bricks, glass etc.

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“The RICS methodology for calculating embodied carbon gives the surveying industry a consistent methodology for calculating and then mitigating the carbon emitted.  It will give the QS a framework to calculate the embodied carbon in a systematic, quick and carbon significant way."

Matt Fulford, head of buildings at Sustain, who sat on the paper’s working group said: “Sustain welcome the publication by the RICS of the guidance note on embodied carbon. This will be of great support to industry practitioners in developing a consistent approach to measurement and reporting in this area. Embodied carbon should not be underestimated and is a major development area for surveyors as the operational carbon elements reduces to near zero and the embodied carbon elements of construction becomes a significantly higher proportion.”

Following consultation feedback, RICS will also be undertaking further work and extending the information paper to support challenges such as how to deal with the carbon through the construction phase to the ‘end of life’, where there is significant potential for recovering and recycling products. RICS will also be supporting ongoing work into the creation of a carbon assessment data structure that follows standard industry data calculations – critical to successful carbon accounting.

More information at: www.rics.org/embodiedcarbon   

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