A lot of attention on AEC industry sustainability has been heavily focused on operational carbon. For instance, Revit tools like Spacemaker and Analysis are focused on energy efficiency. Operational carbon involves the emissions from a building’s energy and water consumption. It can be reduced over time with maintenance and upgrades.
In the 2023 Applied Software, Graitec Group webinar “Sustainability in AEC: Assessing Embodied Carbon in Revit,” Anthony Zuefeldt explained the current interest in determining the impact on carbon emissions from the way our buildings are made and operate.
Statistics are that CO2 emissions from core and shell building materials are 11%, other building materials are 10%, and building operations amount to 28%. Added together, they reportedly represent nearly half of global carbon emissions. As reported in a 2018 study by 2030, Inc., embodied carbon will be responsible for nearly half of total new construction emissions between 2023 and 2050.
Embodied carbon includes emissions from the manufacture, transport and installation of building materials. It is locked into a building as soon as the structure is built.
As described by New Buildings Institute, embodied carbon can be generated in the construction sector by:
- Extracting raw materials
- Transporting raw materials to factory
- Manufacturing products
- Transporting materials to the jobsite
- Constructing the building
- Using the building
- Maintenance and repairs in the building
- Building replacement
- Building refurbishment
- Hauling away waste materials
- Disposal of demolition waste
Embodied carbon has a big impact in construction that can be reduced by considering reuse of materials. Repurposing buildings and designing for deconstruction are other options. In addition, designers can optimize materials and specification of materials to have low carbon impact or even have carbon sequestering properties.
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Regarding the specification of low-carbon impact materials, Anthony demonstrated theEmbodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool and tallyCAT, which work together to easily adjust the carbon impact of your designs in Revit. Both are products available from the nonprofit Building Transparency.
EC3 was developed through industry collaboration. The tool’s primary function is to accelerate and scale reduction of embodied carbon in the built environment. Designers can use it to access and view carbon and emissions data for construction products manufactured within a defined supply region/geography. That information enables designers to make carbon-smart choices during design and procurement. These tools are available at no charge and enable easy and fast choices.
Anthony described that a designer can accomplish the materials comparison process in minutes using the EC3 database. EC3 has carbon benchmarking, so a designer can compare and rank materials by embodied carbon performance. Also of importance is that the data is aggregated from publicly available material data sheets called environmental product declarations (EPDs).
An EPD data sheet specifies the environmental impact of a product during its lifecycle. Based on a European standard and self-reported by materials manufacturers, it is an established way to present verified environmental information. To access EPD data sheets, you can even manually search the EPD library.
The free, open access tallyCAT Revit plug-in helps assess embodied carbon reduction opportunities using visualization and report tools. It exports materials quantities to and from Revit and the EC3 database and synchronizes them.
When it’s time for your company to address embodied carbon in construction, consider using EC3 and tallyCAT to help compare and specify materials that have low carbon impact.
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