Whole Life Carbon (WLC) emissions are produced from both the construction and use of a building over its entire lifespan.
Although we have been measuring operational emissions from buildings for some time (i.e the impact of occupying and operating a building), Whole Life Carbon assessment gives us much better understanding of the impact of those emissions already ‘built in’. These embodied emissions can contribute 40-70% of total emissions in a new building.
Whole Life Carbon emissions include those operational emissions from regulated and unregulated energy use, and embodied carbon. Embodied carbon covers the carbon emissions from:
- Raw material extraction
- Manufacture of products
- Transport of materials
- Maintenance, repair and replacement
- Demolition and disposal (see table at bottom of page)
Guidance and Benchmarking
Whole Life Carbon assessments are guided by the RICS ‘Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment’ Professional Statement (November 2017) document. The guide sought to standardise whole life carbon assessments, and provides specific guidance on the methodology outlined in EN 15978.
The objective of a Whole Life Carbon assessment is to mitigate carbon impacts throughout a project’s lifecycle and the reporting should allow future comparison of results and allow benchmarking and target setting.
There are two primary benchmarks available to us at present – those provided within the RICS Professional statement and those recommended by LETI (London Energy Transformation Initiative). These allow a client to see how their buildings perform in comparison to these benchmarks.
The RICS guidance states that it is mandatory to include substructure and superstructure in the assessment. The assessment can also include facilitating works, finishes, building services and external works if the information can be confirmed by the design team.
Life Cycle Stages
The tables below outlines the scope of a Whole Life Carbon assessment and refers to the emissions associated with the different life cycle stages. RICS guidance states that it is mandatory to include Stages A1-A5, B4 and B6 within a WLC assessment.
London Plan Requirements
The Greater London Authority (GLA) sets it’s own guidance around Whole Life Carbon. Policy SI2 of the London Plan 2021 requires that planning applications include a Whole Life Carbon assessment. This must show a calculation of WLC emissions and demonstration of how they have been reduced throughout the planning and design phases. Whilst an assessment is supported and encouraged on all major applications, they are mandatory for all developments referable to the Major. These typically include:
- Schemes of more than 150 residential units
- Development over 30 metres in height outside the City of London
- Development on greenbelt or Metropolitan Open Land
- All applications whether outline, detailed or hybrid
A WLC assessment should be submitted at the following stages:
- Pre-application (where relevant)
- Planning application submission (i.e. RIBA stage 2/3)
- Post-construction (i.e. prior to occupation of the development). Generally it would be expected that the assessment would be received three months post-construction.
Generally the GLA requirements follow the RICS Professional Statement as above. However, the GLA requirements differ in a few areas – for example the reporting of operational carbon emission factors and use of TM54 assessments for non-residential operational carbon.
Circular Economy Statements
We need to move away from the current linear economy where materials are used and thrown away. A circular economy is one where materials are retained in their highest value for as long as possible before being re-used and recycled, to minimise waste.
The circular economy principle focuses on a more efficient use of materials which in turn leads to financial
London Plan Policy SI7 requires that a Circular Economy statement is produced in alignment with the energy strategy for the site and with the WLC assessment. Build Energy can produce this in tandem with your Whole Life Carbon assessment where required.