Whole Life Carbon Assessment

*Text extracts taken from ‘Embodied and whole life carbon assessment for architects 2017’

Whole life carbon approach

To get a true picture of a building’s energy and carbon emissions impact, it is necessary to understand not only the operational and the embodied emissions on their own, but also the interrelationship between them. Whole life carbon (WLC) thinking therefore means considering these emissions together so as to optimise their relative and combined impacts and avoid their unintended consequences of assessing each in isolation. In summary, a low carbon building is one that optimises the use of resources both to build it and to use it over its lifetime. 

WLC assessments help quantify the impacts of our design choices on the environment and how to mitigate them in the most cost-effective way. As efforts to curb climate change rise up the agenda, they are…become[ing] an integral part of the design process. 

Architects have an opportunity to take the lead if they engage early on with the methodology and thinking. it will mean architects taking greater interest in the sourcing  of components and the processes involved in assembling them into buildings. It will mean thinking, at the design stages, about the future life of our buildings, and the impact on the environment of their maintenance, disposal and potential for reuse. 

Combined with the expertise and research undertaken by the Sustainability Research Institute, the proposal will embody the principles described above whilst also considering the end of ‘useful life’ use of the materials being used. This will be explored in more detail should the proposal receive planning approval. 

The table opposite shows the scope of assessment required when undertaking WLC analysis, noting module D which goes beyond the system boundary when taking into consideration reuse, recovery and recycling potential, a priority consideration for this proposal. 

Assessment Information