Whole life carbon and embodied carbon

Achieving net zero carbon in construction can be a technical, often complex challenge. Designing to reduce whole life carbon is an essential part of rising to that challenge.

A view of the rooftop terrace of Entopia ona sunny day featuring the PV panel canopy which provides shade to the benches below.

About whole life carbon

Max Fordham’s whole life carbon team is truly multidisciplinary, with backgrounds that range from ‘traditional’ mechanical and electrical engineering to architecture, structural engineering, and Passivhaus design. With the thorough understanding of the whole building’s design and construction that such a range of expertise brings, we not only provide the robust and detailed embodied carbon modelling required for BREEAM certification and planning compliance, but also the strategic upfront advice and optioneering that helps result in buildings that are truly low carbon.

Simply put, the whole life carbon equation is operational carbon + embodied carbon. Operational carbon is associated with a building’s actual energy and water use: its measurement and reduction through good building services design or decarbonisation is a well-established process. Embodied carbon is more nebulous: it is the carbon tied up in a building’s construction materials (steel, concrete, plastic, timber, brick) and associated construction processes. This is challenging to measure and requires collaboration from the whole team. 

Working closely with the client and design team, our consultants set embodied carbon targets and measurement strategies; advise on the design decisions – such as material selection, façade design, massing, fit-out, and MEP strategies – that will have the biggest embodied carbon impacts; advise on circular economy strategies; and provide invaluable data-driven input into early-stage decisions – such as retrofit versus demolition – that can have wide-ranging and far-reaching impacts on a project’s long term financial and carbon costs. 

For us, whole life carbon considerations are not a constraint – they’re an opportunity to deliver truly sustainable buildings.

Case studies

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