More Carbon Today and Less Tomorrow Isn’t a Net Zero Solution

Creating a net zero carbon built environment is complex. It involves all types of buildings. Some of these are yet to be designed and built, most already exist.

There are also different sources of carbon emissions: embodied, operational and end of life. Truly net zero carbon solutions have to account for all three.

Before we dive too far into the complexity, it’s worth taking a step back to remember the broader objective; This is to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions released into the atmosphere. To do this we need buildings with vastly reduced energy consumption, where 100% of that energy is produced from renewable sources. But, we also need more.

Climate change is blind as far as the source of carbon emissions is concerned. It matters not whether they are embodied, operational or released when the building is decommissioned and demolished.

What this means is that we have to be wary of solutions that trade extra embodied carbon emissions now for future reductions in operational carbon. This applies whether it’s a new build or retrofit project.

Embodied Carbon Reduction

It’s interesting to note that one of the reasons the Tulip Tower in London was refused planning permission was the vast quantity of embodied carbon that would result from the reinforced concrete structure.

With new buildings, the case for modelling whole life carbon emissions is increasingly accepted. Until recently, calculating embodied carbon was difficult, which was an obstacle for designers and procurement teams looking for genuinely net zero carbon solutions.

This is no longer a problem. Working with KLH Consultancy, Innovaré has developed an embodied carbon calculator tool. Using the tool, we can analyse the structure of a building (whether existing or at the specification stage) and calculate the total embodied carbon. We can also model how using different materials and methods would affect the overall quantity of embodied carbon.

Embodied carbon calculations also apply to zero carbon retrofit. Where cladding is needed, SIPs generally provide a negative or neutral embodied carbon solution, thanks to the high structural timber content. This will avoid the unhappy trade-off of emitting more (irreversible) carbon today, to save emissions in future. There doesn’t have to be a compromise.

If you want to understand and reduce the carbon impact of either new buildings or retrofit programmes visit our resource centre or contact (enquiries@innovaresystems.co.uk) for more information.