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RIBA launches whole life carbon assessment guide

Guide introduces architects to WLC principles and their application through the RIBA work stages.

15 February 2018

This week the RIBA publishes a guide to 'Embodied and whole life carbon assessments for architects', making the process more accessible to practitioners by integrating WLC assessment principles with the RIBA work stages.

The document, authored by RIBA Sustainable Futures Group chair Simon Sturgis, is presented as a parallel document to the RICS 'Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment professional statement', which appeared late last year and gave the industry a standardised approach to WLC for the first time. It is the mandatory methodology for any RICS member providing a WLC assessment.

Before the RICS guidance, designers looked primarily to the British Standard BS EN 15978 to assess the environmental performance of buildings, but there was no detailed practical guidance. Sturgis says the standard has also been open to interpretation, which tended to give WLC a lack of reliability and comparability.

The Enterprise Centre, Norwich, by Architype, who undertook an in house whole life carbon assessment. Image by Darren Carter.

The RIBA guide offers an introduction to the principles of whole life carbon assessment, a summary of the RICS professional statement and advice on how its methodology should be applied in the context of the RIBA work stages, at design, procurement, construction and post completion.

‘The guide encourages architects to think about the sourcing of materials from all aspects and to understand the implications of design choices and what happens after practical completion. The whole life costing approach offers architects a chance to take a lead and stand at forefront on energy issues and sustainable design,’ says Sturgis.

To get a true picture of a building’s energy and carbon emissions impact it is necessary to understand not only the operational and the embodied emissions, but the interrelationship between them. The WLC approach sets out to identify the best combined opportunities for reducing or mitigating lifetime emissions and avoid any unintended consequences that can arise from focusing on operational emissions alone.

The RICS guide sets out data sources for whole life carbon assessments of materials (many are chargeable), while specialist consultants often maintain their own databases. Sturgis points out that it is increasingly easy to find environmental product declarations (EPDs) from product manufacturers and materials suppliers. Greater WLC activity will encourage this trend, he adds.

So far WLC has been led by some of the leading commercial developers and informed public sector clients such as universities. Sturgis says he has no doubt WLC activity will accelerate from here and there are plenty of signs suggesting that he is right.

BREEAM 2018 (currently in draft) will reference lifecycles and embodied carbon, and WLC will be actively promoted in the capital through the forthcoming London Plan.

Architects can expect to see a new sustainability overlay to the PoW later this year, currently being drawn up by the Sustainable Futures Group, and RIBA awards are having sustainability criteria expanded to be more comprehensive and to take in WLC principles.

Any architects looking to undertake WLC for the first time can find a set of minimum requirements set out in the RICS guidance, now transposed to the RIBA guide at appropriate PoW stages.

Diary note: The UK Green Building Council will host an interactive webinar on the RICS’ Professional Statement on ‘Whole life carbon assessment for the built environment’ and the complementary RIBA guidance for architects on 28 February 2018 at 12.00 PM. The online event will be introduced by Natalia Ford, Sustainability Advisor, UKGBC. Find more information and register on the UKGBC website.

Thanks to Simon Sturgis, Managing Director, Sturgis Carbon Profiling.

by Neal Morris.

This is a Professional Feature edited by the RIBA Practice team. Send us your feedback and ideas

RIBA Core Curriculum Topic: Sustainable architecture.
As part of the flexible RIBA CPD programme, Professional Features count as microlearning. See further information on the updated RIBA CPD Core Curriculum and on fulfilling your CPD requirements as an RIBA Chartered Member.

Posted on 15 February 2018.

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