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Embodied Carbon | Published Studies
Embodied Carbon | Published Studies

Embodied Carbon Methodology, published studies

Patrick Chopson avatar
Written by Patrick Chopson
Updated over a week ago

This article summarizes early-stage carbon calculation methodologies and deeper insights into the usefulness of carbon metrics for AEC stakeholders which are presented and published at international conferences including the ASHRAE Building Decarbonization 2022 Conference and NetZero Conference 2022.

  • The structural system is commonly a large contributor to the embodied carbon in new construction projects. When major decisions about structural systems are made late in the design process, the project team's ability to influence carbon impacts due to structural decisions is restricted.

  • This can leave the embodied carbon impact of structural design as secondary to major design decisions made by architects before a structural engineer has been engaged. Early-stage carbon estimation can be limited by structural assumptions, including the selection and estimation of structural systems and structural volumes.

  • Explores the feasibility of early-stage structural volume estimation, especially as it can be applied in analyzing embodied carbon (CO2e) studies, has the potential to bring the carbon impact of structural systems into the design discussion at earlier and earlier stages, when the costs of design changes are lower, and the potential impact is greater.

  • By developing a methodology for estimating structural volumes based on initial architectural decisions such as building footprint, floor area, floor-to-floor heights, and preliminary structural selections, this research serves to bridge the gap between decision-making and analysis to achieve effective and applicable early-stage embodied carbon analysis.

  • Importance of embodied carbon estimation as it is shaped by early-stage structural estimations by

    a) presenting a brief review of the current methods,

    b) discussing how project teams can use early-stage estimating to ensure that embodied carbon is considered throughout the project life cycle, and

    c) outlining a sample methodology for early-stage structural estimation aimed towards volumetric takeoffs for embodied carbon calculations.

  • Building scientists believe that buildings' environmental impacts should be minimized and that Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an excellent way of doing so. The importance of evaluating potential improvements to a building's embodied carbon impact during the early design stages is widely recognized; however, the application of carbon calculation during the design stage is limited due to the high level of uncertainty in design and material decisions at this stage.

  • Project stakeholders such as principals, architects, structural consultants, designers, etc. all require access to targeted carbon data to be able to analyze and make impactful project decisions.

  • This research introduces a process for aiding project stakeholders with stratified carbon data for making integrated design decisions, and phase-wise carbon impact visualization of construction scenarios.

  • Knowing quick carbon impacts is especially helpful while iterating through building systems and corresponding products that are not yet finalized in the early design stages.

  • The study identifies stakeholders and corresponding-most meaningful carbon metrics and stratifies and visualizes this data for impactful early design decision-making. The product stage modules A1, A2, and A3 (including product selection and construction) are evaluated in terms of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and all stakeholders can understand the carbon impact-both micro and macro levels.

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