Revolutionizing Sustainability: Carbon Emission Estimations in Advance Design

16 August 2023Advance Design, SustainabilityCarbon, carbon footprint, embodied carbon, Structural, structural engineering, sustainable design



Climate change is a critical global concern that impacts both people and the environment. The construction industry, which contributes significantly to overall carbon emissions worldwide, must prioritize environmentally sustainable practices. Carbon emission estimations have become an increasingly important aspect of many countries’ regulations regarding structural engineering projects. These estimations are mandatory to ensure that structural engineering projects are environmentally sustainable and in compliance with global climate change initiatives. In addition to being a regulatory requirement, carbon emission estimations can also be an important consideration for project stakeholders.

By assessing the potential emissions associated with a project, stakeholders can identify areas where improvements can be made to reduce the environmental impact of the project. This can help to ensure that projects are sustainable and aligned with the values of the community.

In this regard, Advance Design‘s innovative Finite Element Method (FEM) software, coupled with a new CO2 emission calculator, facilitates precise carbon factor measurements for construction materials and elements. This advanced technology equips designers with graphical results and informative reports, empowering them to make environmentally conscious decisions regarding the structural engineering aspects of their designs.

Technical specification: how the functionality works

Calculation of CO2 emissions based on carbon factors entered for materials or elements, with results in graphical form and reports.

Following its engagement to build a sustainable future, Advance Design is now equipped with a new CO2 emission calculator. The main purpose of this new tool is to facilitate the determination of embodied carbon values for structural elements. This new tool will help designers to better assess the environmental impact of the choices they make on structural elements and construction materials.

The fundamental principle of an embodied carbon calculation is typically to multiply the quantity of each material by a carbon factor (normally measured in kgCO2e per kg of material). As the embodied carbon associated with the production stage is the largest contributor to the embodied carbon of a structure, production stage carbon factors (carbon factors for the production stage – modules A1-A3) are used for calculations.

Defining Carbon Factors

The general procedure for defining data for CO2 estimation is to prepare a list of data sets with specific carbon factors and then to assign them to individual materials – or optionally to structural elements.

Preparing the list of data sets is done with the help of a dedicated Carbon Factor Manager. It can be opened from the Materials and Sections group in the Manage ribbon.

Advance Design Manage ribbon

The Carbon Factor Manager window is divided into two parts. The upper part contains data sets added and used in the project, while the lower part shows the entries available in the selected database.

Advance Design carbon emission carbon factors list

Carbon Factors Manager

In the top part, we can either import data from the database entry or add a new data set using the Add button. Then we fill in the name of the data set and CO2 emission per unit of weight, volume, or area (for planar elements), and values corresponding to the weight of reinforcement.

Although in most cases we use carbon factors based on the weight of the material (such data is usually provided by manufacturers and other institutions), in special cases we can use factors based on volume or area. What is important is that we can combine factors. For example, if for a wall or slab we want to consider cladding elements, then in addition to the value according to weight, we can add in the same position a value depending on the surface area. For concrete elements, we can simultaneously enter the carbon factor for reinforcement. This allows us to obtain a CO2 value, including the reinforcement, based on the quantity of reinforcement calculated during the concrete design analysis for that element.

In the bottom part of this Manager, we can see data sets available on a selected library. Each user can independently prepare and manage the data content in the library.

For more information about the command, see the Graitec Advance Design help topic: Defining Carbon Factors.

Note: Advance Design provides a sample library with a list of examples of averaged values of the production stage carbon factors for selected materials. It is important to remember that the factors for many materials strongly depend on additional information, such as place and technology of production, use of recycling, type of ingredients (e.g. cement), etc. Therefore, for accurate estimation, adequate data provided by manufacturers should be used. Also note that for some localizations, the country’s local regulations may dictate the use of other official data.


Assigning Carbon Factors

There are two methods of assigning carbon factors: by assigning to materials or by assigning to elements (linear/planar/support/load area).

When Carbon Factors are assigned to materials (for example concrete C25/30), then such values are used for all objects from this material.

For this, the Materials Manager now includes a new Carbon Emission section where we can assign a specific CO2 data set for each material by selecting from a drop-down list of available data sets.

Advance Design carbon emission materials list

Assigning a CO2 emission data set to material

By default, each structural element inherits its material CO2 emission. However, we can override this and impose another data set for selected elements. Assigning data sets with carbon factors to selected elements is done using new dedicated options available on the list of element properties.

Interestingly, it is also possible to determine carbon factors for foundations, although they are not separately defined or presented in the model. For this purpose, the parameters available in the properties of supports are used, including foundation dimensions and material. Note that in the case of foundations, the reinforcement ratio that could be used for estimations needs to be set manually, while for other elements (beams, columns, slabs) it is calculated automatically during concrete design calculation analysis.

Overwriting default carbon factors of a linear element (left) and a support (right)

This 17-second video demonstrates the ease of carbon emission estimations in Advance Design.


The results of the calculations are available in graphical form and the form of report tables.

For the graphical results, on the Result ribbon, a new section for Cost and Carbon emission is used.

We can display the CO2 emission results of point and linear supports, linear and planar elements, and load areas. The results values can be displayed per element, per unit of length (for linear elements), per unit of area (for planar elements), per unit of volume, and per unit of weight.

graphic showing carbon emission results in blue, red and green

CO2 emission of linear elements displayed per element

Advance Design planar elements in orange, yellow and green

CO2 emission of planar elements displayed per element

For tables and reports, Advance Design can generate CO2 emission tables. The tabulated results can be presented by material, by element type, and by system.

Report table of CO2 emission estimations by material

Report table of CO2 emission estimations by element type

table carbon emission estimates by system

Report table of CO2 emission estimations by system


For more information about the results, see the Graitec Advance Design help topic: Results for Cost and CO2 emission estimations.



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