Addressing embodied carbon in the construction industry

Embodied Carbon Week 2014 led by UKGBC kicked off this week, 7 April, to raise awareness of the importance of addressing embodied carbon in the built environment. Over the course of the week a series of events are being held to explore current issues and challenges around embodied carbon within each sector, encourage collaboration on the different measurement approaches and discuss best practice across the industry and regulation.

Embodied carbon (termed capital carbon at infrastructure or asset level) is a measure of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere during the creation of a building or asset as opposed to operation. It is a key concern for the built environment and rising on the agenda as a hot topic for the construction industry as we face the challenges of working towards a resilient and sustainable built environment.

Infrastructure and capital carbon
Addressing carbon in the planning and constructing of infrastructure is paramount to reducing embodied carbon in the construction industry. The release of the Infrastructure Carbon Review in November 2013 outlined the context of carbon in UK infrastructure and recommends actions for wider change across the infrastructure sector, including development of the business case for sustainability and the link between lower carbon and lower costs.

Construction materials with low embodied carbon
To coincide with the UK Green Building Council Embodied Carbon Week, the University of Leeds are conducting a survey among construction professionals to offer their opinions and experiences on construction materials with low embodied carbon. This project is being undertaken by ESPRC-funded UK INDEMAND Centre - an interdisciplinary academic research group focussed on delivering material efficiency in UK industry.

The survey is available until 7th May from the following link:

CIRIA’s Low Carbon Industry Leader Group
In 2012, CIRIA established an “Industry Leaders Group” to address the many perspectives and issues associated with the carbon agenda, following the release of the Low Carbon Construction Innovation and Growth report in 2010. While many organisations recognise the need to act, deciding on the course of action and the first steps can be daunting. Challenges include the sheer breadth of the topic, the large number of active groups, the volume of available guidance, the range of stakeholders and drivers, and the complexity of the construction sector itself.

CIRIA’s Low Carbon Industry Leaders Group have produced a series of briefings to help accelerate the transition to a low carbon built environment including:
  • an overview of the area and the key issues and challenges
  • an overview of the current approach adopted by leading players
  • guidance on what practical measures most organisations are able to do now
  • a forward look covering important initiatives currently underway and developments anticipated over the next 2-5 years
All briefings are available free of charge on the CIRIA Low Carbon Industry Leaders Group webpage: