What is embodied carbon and operational carbon emissions?
There are two types of carbon emissions of a building:
- Embodied carbon
- Operational carbon
Embodied carbon is the carbon emission generated at the construction phase including material usage and transportation. It also includes all the carbon footprint associated with the end-of-life demolition.
Operational carbon emission, as the name indicated, the footprint after the building become operational. The consumption of concrete is the main material accounting for the carbon emissions in construction industry, contributing to 7% of the global Carbon dioxide emissions.
How embodied Carbon becomes so important?
As the dramatic increase of human population and expand of urbanization, the demand for high-rising office building and residential building increases accordingly. To cope with the climate change and adjusting population increase at the same time, all buildings are highly suggested to design in a more sustainable way while maintaining the current living standard.
How to make a building low-carbon?
Zero carbon development is a highly discussed topic these days. All industries are shifting to sustainable development. In the civil engineering field, it is becoming more and more crucial to encourage engineers to consider low embodied material at designing stage.
There are several core concepts inspiring engineers and architect to design low embodied carbon design.
1. Designing for a long term
Nowadays more and more buildings start introducing green interventions within the, such as rainwater harvesting system and solar panels. The initial cost for these technologies might be expensive. However, reasonable amount of energy and water resources would be saved and contribute to less operational carbon emission in a long term.
2. Light and sustainable material & low-carbon products
- Durable material
- Timber members
- Structural volume optimization
Using durable materials that are capable of serving longer time can reduce future repairment and transportation in a long term. For the main frame of the building, timber is a highly recommended sustainable material if trees are grown and harvested in a sustainable way. Moreover, timber has low processing stages, accounting for comparably low embodied caron footprint. The structural volume shall be optimized with the help of software to reduce material mass.
3. New construction technology
Modular-building is a popular sustainable building design, which significantly reduce the construction time and material mass. This is a very efficient building design approach and the whole construction and designing stage are also systematic. Each unit can be constructed off-site. Also, the cost of the construction is significantly lower than conventional building method, considering the reduced time and human resource investment.