Building Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) gives emphasis on calculating the carbon emissions generated. Although carbon is a remarkable part of the building sustainability, the tools and data to solely support carbon calculations are to this day still relatively scarce.
At HEAL, we interviewed sustainability professionals along the building value chain. The aim of the research was to understand how environmental impact is taken into account in the design phase of buildings. Our previously published article on the research can be read here.
When it comes down to environmental impact calculations, carbon emissions are often the main topic of discussion. Emitted CO2 is seen as an important factor in defining construction sustainability, yet the conversation highly focuses on emissions rather than embodied carbon. The focus of the discussion is prominent especially for companies operating in the wood building industry, where carbon intake is a significant aspect of sustainability.
Simpler ways to communicate sustainability are needed
Although generated carbon strongly influences the building LCA, a thorough assessment is complicated to perform, and carbon might not be presented in separate easy-to-understand format. The tools to solely measure the amount of CO2 released and captured are sparse and therefore, carbon is difficult to use as a stand-alone factor. Furthermore, the difference between emissions and embodied carbon is not presented in readable form in building LCA which makes it difficult to draw conclusions on how much the intake actually impacts on the final figure.
Instead of using complex LCA calculations, we need to be able to translate sustainability information through simple figures such as emitted and embodied carbon. A new set of tools to measure, communicate and visualise carbon could enable more sustainable design and encourage following the figures from the beginning until the end of projects. In addition to make CO2 measures clearer for the industry professionals, they could be an understandable way of communicating building sustainability for building owners and users as well.