“Triple-glazed windows might reduce heating requirements, but their embodied carbon is vast.” So says the architect Simon Sturgis, founder of carbon consultancy Targeting Zero, in this article on embodied carbon. It is a reminder that for all the focus on operational carbon (EPCs, MEES, green lease clauses etc), particularly in terms of regulation, net zero goals in the built environment cannot ignore the carbon cost of making and maintaining buildings. As the Architects Climate Action Network campaign group estimates, embodied carbon can account for up to 76% of total carbon emissions of a warehouse over a typical 60-year lifespan (operational carbon emissions accounting for the balance). If real estate is to move to a net zero world, the ”secret“ of embodied carbon surely has no place to hide, including in terms of regulation.
With the built environment contributing about 45% of the total carbon emitted in the UK, the embodied energy of construction has become the vital element to focus on.