UKGBC Embodied Carbon Conference


Architype speak at UKGBC

Following from the success of Embodied Carbon Week 2014, the UK Green Building Council hosted a follow up one-day conference on 1 October 2015, to address the key issues raised and to identify plans for making real change within the sector. Christian had presented Architype’s work on reducing Embodied Carbon in design of University of East Anglia Enterprise Centre the previous year, and so was asked to speak on behalf of designer’s perspective at this years conference.

Architype has long led the field in designing low embodied carbon buildings, and has even develop leading software RAPIERE in order to calculate this. Christian shared his experience in this area with a few quick slides, followed by a Q&A session. The solutions to the main challenges raised were as follows:

  • Use and develop tools to measure Embodied Carbon on every project.
  • Work with Structural Engineer on simplifying and minimising foundations and superstructure (biggest impact)
  • Creation of industry wide Embodied Carbon benchmarks, and show the Embodied Carbon of projects featured in magazines as well as Operational Carbon.
  • Develop an economic framework to make refurbishment of projects not at a disadvantage to new build (i.e. new build can potentially claim back the 20% VAT, which results in it being much more cost effective to demolish and build new – however this has a much higher Embodied Carbon impact).
  • Invest in researching materials and designs without high mass / carbon intensity but that still provide high thermal mass to help keep buildings cool in summer, e.g. straw.
  • Provide case studies showing how to minimise material waste and maximise efficiency of the design.
  • Push material suppliers to make verified Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) for all materials, so that designers can know which materials have high / lower embodied carbon impacts.
  • Get the EPD Embodied Carbon information into BIM and NBS specifications, so that contractors cannot change a low embodied carbon material for a high-embodied carbon material.
  • More research is needed on end of life and maintenance replacement cycles to complete the whole life analysis picture.
  • Educate and challenge those we work with to do more.

The event was really great, with so many people being engaged and passionate about tackling the challenge. One of the highlights of the conference was that RICS was looking towards taking over the management and population of the WRAP embodied carbon database, so that the industry could have reliable benchmarks to compare against. More information on the event can be found on the UKGBC website