Carbon-based design: why early optimization is important

Timing is (almost) everything. Decisions made during the early stages of a construction project will determine the building’s emissions throughout its life.

Early design optimization is critical as the chances of decarbonization decrease by approximately 50% as a typical project progresses through each of its phases. From a cost perspective, early stages also present the greatest potential for lower cost embodied carbon.

The potential for carbon reduction decreases with each stage of the project / credit: LCA ONE CLICK
The potential for carbon reduction decreases with each stage of the project / credit: LCA ONE CLICK

Why are materials important?

According to the International Energy Agency, the manufacture of building materials is responsible for about 10% of global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Architects, designers, and engineers can reduce the impact by reducing the use of carbon-intensive materials, identifying low-carbon or recycled alternatives, or even determining carbon performance requirements for specific products. In all of these cases, early intervention is key, as the chances of revising designs, setting strong goals, and choosing different products are greatly reduced, but better as the project progresses.

Establishing a carbon baseline is the first step in getting the right approach to the project. The baseline calculates the carbon footprint of the building without any reductions, which lays the foundation for the carbon budget.. From there, carbon hotspots and reduction opportunities can be identified.

However, during the early stages of a project, construction professionals often lack detailed design data, making it difficult to establish a baseline. Fortunately, technology makes it possible to calculate a building’s carbon footprint sooner and easier than ever before.

Early reviews made easy

Carbon Designer 3D is a new tool from One Click LCA specialists. It makes carbon assessments possible based on building size and type only.

Using data from One Click LCA’s comprehensive construction database, the tool allows you to calculate your design’s baseline emissions, analyze impact hotspots, and identify opportunities for improvement. The project team can then consider design alternatives, ensuring that carbon-informed choices drive the decision.

Visualize the carbon impact of different design options / Credit: One Click LCA
Visualize the carbon impact of different design options / Credit: One Click LCA

We are only eight years away from the World Green Building Council’s goal of achieving a 40% carbon reduction in all construction projects by 2030 in order to limit the rise in average global temperature to below 2°C.

Architects, designers and engineers have a key role to play in ensuring that this challenge is met. Allowing embodied carbon insights to guide design decisions from the start of every project is part of the radical shift in the approach needed to do so.

Learn more about reducing embodied carbon and how One Click LCA is helping designers, builders and manufacturers reduce their impact.

references

  1. Watchdog (2021), Building Tracking 2021, Watchdog, Paris
  2. World Green Building Council (2019), Bringing embodied carbon in advance for 2019. WorldGBC, London

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