What is Low Carbon Design?
For the life of a building the carbon emissions are comprised of 2 factors:
- Operational Carbon Emissions
- Heating for rooms
- Heating for hot water
- All other electrical needs such as appliances and lighting
- Embodied Carbon
- Production of construction materials
- Transport and assembly of materials during construction phase
- Maintenance and replacement of construction elements
- Disassembly and/or demolition of the building
Operational Carbon Emissions have to be considered as part of building regulations. Government plans are to reduce emissions for new buildings to standards more consistent with Passivhaus buildings and QDA are keen to see these standards adopted asap.
Interestingly, Embodied Carbon is likely to account for 70% of the total carbon emissions from new buildings in the near future. This issue is fundamental to the RIBA Climate Emergency objectives and QDA encourage all clients to undertake Carbon Whole Life Cycle Costing (a method of measuring Embodied Carbon) or to ensure that this is a clear metric within their contractor briefs.
Many design decisions, such as the specification of foundations, may have no impact on functionality or costs and providing clients with good quality, clear information is all that is needed to enable carbon reductions.
Other design decisions such as prioritising timber over steel, may require more detailed consideration and our experience enables perceived risks to be properly understood and mitigated where necessary.
We have recently undertaken a Low Carbon Design Study of Apartment Design for a leading Housing Association, Housing 21. This included consideration of both Operational and Embodied Carbon. The study seeks to inform future design standards to enable the Housing Association to work towards delivering Net Zero Carbon housing schemes.