Energy & carbon
2 min

Sustainability _ Reduced embodied carbon emissions

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Embodied carbon refers to carbon embedded in the materials used in the building. Today, new buildings are more energy-efficient: that means that the share of embodied carbon in the building's lifecycle emissions is increasing. Tackling this issue at the design stage, with low-carbon materials, has significant benefits for our planet.

Did you know?

39%

Share of the construction sector in worldwide green-house gases emissions

11%

Share of embodied carbon in worldwide green-house gases emissions

FAQ

What is embodied carbon? 

  • Quantity of carbon emissions containted in the building's materials

  • CO2 emissions related to material extraction, manufacture, construction, demolition, and end of life

  • Four construction materials with the highest embodied carbon: cement, steel, aluminium, plastic

  • Complementary to operational carbon in the total of building's emissions. Operational carbon: amount of carbon emitted when the building is in use (energy, ventilation system, IT equipment, ...)

Estimated distribution of carbon emissions per life cycle stage
Source: ARUP and WBCSD, Net Zero Buildings, Are we on track?

 

How to reduce embodied carbon in buildings? 

  • Action must be taken at the design stage, otherwise embodied carbon savings are lost for the entire lifetime of the building

  • Special attention needed for the building structure, that accounts for 30-64% of embodied emissions 

  • Examples of solutions:

    • Change the materials for high level of recycled content or alternative materials (agrictultural products that sequester carbon: wool, straw, hemp insulation, ...)

    • Design lightweight constructions

    • Consider buildings as material banks: use designs that facilitate the future reuse and recycling at the end-of-life of the building

How to measure embodied carbon?

  • Use a life-cycle assessment at building level, to have reliable information on the environmental impact of the project. Consider the global warming potential indicator. 

How do we act? 

  • Reducing the carbon emissions of our production process (local sourcing, renewable energy to power industrial processes, increasing energy efficiency in our buildings, ...)

  • Increasing the recycled content in our products (insulation, glazing and plasterboards)

  • Offering lightweight products and solutions

  • Developing solutions using alternative materials (reusing waste for other purposes, using bio-sourced materials)