The Structural Engineer > Archive > Volume 90 (2012) > Issues > Issue 12 > Whole life carbon – a building case study
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Whole life carbon – a building case study

There is potential to reduce both operational and embodied greenhouse gas emission from buildings. To date the focus has been on reducing the operational element, although given the urgency of carbon reductions, it may be more beneficial to consider upfront embodied carbon reductions. This paper describes a case study on the whole life carbon cycle of a warehouse building in Swindon, UK. It examines the relationship between embodied carbon (Ec) and operational carbon (Oc), the proportions of Ec from the structural and non-structural elements, carbon benchmarking of the structure, the value of ‘cradle to site’ or ‘cradle to grave’ assessments and the significance of the timing of emissions during the life of the building. The case study indicates that Ec was dominant for the building and that the structure was responsible for more than half of the Ec. Weighting of future emissions appears to be an important factor to consider. The PAS 2050 reduction factors had only a modest effect but weighting to allow for future decarbonisation of the national grid energy supply had a large effect. This suggests that future operational carbon emissions are being overestimated compared to embodied.

Author(s): H. J. Darby (Peter Brett Associates LLP and University of Reading), F. Kelly (Peter Brett Associates LLP), A. A. Elmualim BSc (ICIOB University of Reading)