• The UK Government pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 (Climate Change Act of 2008). Regulations are being introduced requiring all new buildings to be ‘zero carbon’ by 2019. These are defined as buildings which emit net zero carbon during their operational lifetime.
• In order to meet the 80% target it is necessary to reduce the carbon emitted during the whole life-cycle of buildings, including that emitted during the processes of material extraction, manufacturing, delivery to site, construction process, maintenance and refurbishment, waste processing, demolition and recycling. These elements make up the‘embodied carbon’ of the building.
• However, embodied carbon is currently not included in the Government's definition of 'zero carbon'. Currently embodied carbon can be equivalent to as much as 37 years of operational carbon (Ding 2007). This figure will obviously increase as operational carbon is decreased with Government’s ‘zero carbon’ strategy.
What do we know already?
The wide discrepancies in reported embodied carbon and energy figures are due to three main reasons:
• The use of different databases, with non-comparable product data arrived at through different life cycle analysis (LCA) methodologies, different boundaries and often for specific manufacturers;
• Software tools which use different calculation methodologies for the LCA of the whole building; and
• Variation and lack of accurate data for the transport and construction processes used in the software tools.
Aims of ECEB Programme
• Develop a robust methodology to calculate whole life embodied energy and carbon (EE/EC) of buildings
• Develop a usable knowledge base in collaboration with industry
• Advise policy and industry on specific routes to carbon reduction
• Improve understanding of the whole life embodied carbon and energy in buildings
ECEB Leading Research Staff
• Peter Guthrie (OBE FREng FICE)
• Dr Alice Moncaster (PhD MA (Cantab) MSc CEng MICE)
• Dr Ji-Young Song (BA MSc MPhil PhD (Cantab))
• Katie Symons MEng (Cantab) MICE MIstructE
Previous Research Project
- In April 2010 the Technology Strategy Board awarded funding of £1.1m to a consortium including Cambridge Centre for Sustainable Development, to develop a whole life financial and carbon costing tool for housing.
- The consortium wss led by BLP Insurance, and included Willmott Dixon Housing and the UCL Energy Institute.
- The ECEB group developed the embodied carbon/energy algorithms and data input for the software.
Current research project
International Energy Agency ECBCS programme Annex 57 on Evaluation of Embodied Energy & Carbon Dioxide Emissions for Building Construction.
Dr Moncaster is the UK participant on this four year international research project (2011-2015). The project aim is to provide information and advice to Governments and the construction sector, through the development of guidelines including the following information:
1) The state of the art of research into embodied energy and carbon (equivalent) emissions due to building construction,
2) Methods for evaluating the embodied energy and carbon (equivalent) emissions due to building construction,
3) Measures to design and construct buildings with low embodied energy and carbon (equivalent) emissions.