Embodied Carbon Mandates and the Built Environment
Those who make a living in cost consulting are likely well aware of the current and future importance of embodied carbon estimating, as our industry strives to slash lifecycle emissions across the built environment.
Lofty sustainability targets have been set, and it will take a concerted and industry-wide effort to achieve these goals. In this evolving professional environment, quantity surveyors and estimators will play a key role in creating energy efficient structures that limit emissions in the long term.
Our latest blog looks at the embodied carbon regulations that governments are imposing around the globe, as well as steps that cost consultants can take to prepare for this professional challenge.
The Shift Towards Carbon Regulation in Construction
The scope of our crucial industry inevitably makes it a major contributor to overall CO2 emissions across the globe. A report from the United Nations Environment Programme released in 2021 estimated that almost 50 per cent of total global energy-related CO2 emissions were generated by our sector (including operational emissions). This report went on to say that direct building carbon emissions must be halved by 2030 in pursuit of net zero carbon building stock by 2050.
But how do we facilitate this? Leading developers looking to get ahead of the curve are already making embodied carbon a leading consideration from the initial design phase. Given the implications, federal governments are investigating or enacting embodied carbon mandates and action plans for construction.
Continental Europe is leading the charge in 2022, as is often the case on matters of sustainability. The Netherlands was the first country to introduce mandatory assessment of embodied carbon for non-Government buildings, all the way back in 2018. Sweden and Norway now require embodied carbon assessments on certain projects, while Denmark and Finland are expected to unveil mandatory embodied carbon targets in the next few years.
The United Kingdom is seemingly further behind, although a bill calling for reporting of whole-of-life carbon emissions on major projects was introduced to parliament in early 2022. Australia is also some way off a federal mandate being introduced, although several rating systems for built environment emissions are being prepared for national rollout.
The United States is working on procurement as a key pathway to sustainability, by promoting low carbon building materials within the supply chain. This material approach has been enacted in eight US states as of 2021, which is significant given the scope of the US market.
While many federal mandates around embodied carbon are still in the discussion phase, private sector developers and builders are already taking leadership by moving to low carbon materials. The same is true of estimators and cost consultants, who are hoping to establish a competitive advantage in the field by learning the finer points of embodied carbon estimating now. An increasing number of projects, large and small, will require consultancy on carbon efficiency across different stages of project lifecycles, and many professionals are working to build this skillset as soon as possible.
This doesn’t mean that traditional QS techniques will fall by the wayside. Rather, professionals are supplementing their tried-and-true methods and knowledge with new innovations that deliver actionable, up-to-the-minute data.
Estimating with Embodied Carbon in an All-in-One Software Program
With the current rate of change in construction, leading QS and estimators must be equipped with the most advanced tools and datasets to excel on projects.
For several years, RIB’s iTWO costX® platform has supported a wide variety of inbuilt functions for effectively calculating and comparing long-term emissions on a project. Earlier in 2022, this functionality was taken further when RIB partnered with Building Transparency, a non-profit organisation dedicated to releasing open access data and tools to help empower a greener construction industry.
Their major initiative is the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3), a “…free database of construction EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) and matching building impact calculator for use in design and material procurement.”
EC3 aids in evaluating the upfront supply chain emissions of construction materials. With EC3, thousands of verified EPDs are now available in a singular and open-source database, empowering cost consultants to work with up-to-date data they can trust. This database is always growing, and iTWO costX® Version 7.0 users can import EC3 embodied carbon rates into the platform with a click of a button. From here, data can be ‘dragged and dropped’ into worksheets to interrogate and compare performance, with indicative reports able to be produced in a matter of minutes.
iTWO costX® was named runner-up in the ‘Innovation of the Year’ category at the 2022 Construction Computing Awards, specifically for its embodied carbon support that is unprecedented in software of its type. The platform also won the ‘Estimation & Valuation Software of the Year’ category for the fourth consecutive year in 2022.
To find out more about iTWO costX® and specific functionalities for embodied carbon, please visit this link and get in contact with our worldwide team today!