UKGBC sets up new task force to tackle embodied carbon

The UK Green Building Council is stepping up its efforts to help companies tackle embodied carbon at a critical time for reaching net zero. The organisation has mobilised a team of over 70 experts from across the built environment, from developers to suppliers to academics, to develop guidance on embodied carbon emissions.

The aim of the project is to drive the practice of embodied carbon measurement beyond early adopters so it becomes common practice.

In the next few months the task group will work to develop two critical guidance documents. The first will provide insight on the development and use of embodied carbon data, as well as specific guidance on how to accurately measure and report the so-called ’embodied carbon’ in buildings – which accounts for the entire lifecycle emissions of the construction processes and materials used in a development, as well as the building’s operation. The second document will give advice on how to align Scope 3 value chain emissions reporting with embodied carbon calculations, and increase understanding  of how the two methods can complement each other.

“Embodied carbon is irreversible once an asset is built and can account for up to 50% of a building’s emissions over its lifetime,” said Yetunde Abdul, head of climate action, UKGBC. “While many leading developers and infrastructure organisations measure and optimise the embodied carbon footprint of their projects, it is far from being mainstream practice. Together with UKGBC’s Embodied Carbon Task Group, we’re hoping to accelerate a reverse in this trend.”

Despite being a significant source of CO2 in the UK, embodied carbon in buildings is currently unregulated, and measurement and mitigation remains entirely voluntary.

However, there has been growing interest in tackling embodied carbon emissions within the construction and property sector, and UKGBC argues consistent measurement and reporting of these emissions will be crucial to delivering on the UK’s net zero targets, while opening up new avenues for innovation and green business opportunities.

“The time is now for industry to make tackling embodied emissions a priority,” said Abdul. “We must enable industry to undertake reliable calculations at scale, and then use this data to make climate conscious decisions about which projects are compatible with a net zero future.”

The new task group is just part of a range of measures and initiatives the UK Green Building Council is taking. The organisation is also developing further guidance to help support businesses meet new biodiversity net gain requirements which will come into force later this year as part of the Environment Act. All new building, infrastructure and construction projects must provide a  “net gain” in nature and biodiversity levels, either directly at the site of the development itself, or by investing in nature recovery projects elsewhere to offset the negative impact of the development.