Defining and Aligning: Whole Life Carbon & Embodied Carbon

With the Government’s requirements to achieve Net Zero emissions in the UK by 2050, there remains confusion regarding the implications of this for the built environment. Net zero performance should include the consideration of Embodied Carbon and Whole Life Carbon but in order to do this we need to combat a lack of definition, consistent measurement, mis-aligned benchmarks and performance claims.

Following the release of the Embodied Carbon Primer in 2020, LETI has been consulting with industry groups, including CIBSE, RIBA, IStructE, the GLA and the Whole Life Carbon Network (of which ASBP is a part of) to align definitions, scopes, measurement methodologies and targets. LETI has produced some additional resources to guide and help resolve these inconsistencies:

  • One-pager summaries to introduce the concepts of Embodied Carbon and Whole Life Carbon, as well as the industry standards that govern our measurement of the metrics. In addition, they set out key principles to reducing built environment carbon emissions through strategic project and design initiatives.
  • Embodied Carbon Target Alignment document sets out an embodied carbon rating system that can be used to track the urgent performance improvements needed from now until 2030 and comes with a set of reporting templates to ensure consistent reporting scopes are used. This alignment document outlines total embodied carbon targets, as well as upfront carbon targets.
  • Carbon Definitions for the Built Environment, Buildings and Infrastructure provides a common set of definitions that has been developed by the Whole Life Carbon Network (WLCN) in collaboration with LETI.  Results from the 2020 embodied and whole life carbon LETI survey, showed that LETI membership overwhelming felt that Net Zero Carbon performance had to be determined by first minimising emissions to a target level before offsetting the residual emissions. This has been implemented within the net zero definitions in this document.

This suite of 4 documents should be read together, along with the net zero operational one pager,  to understand operational, embodied and Whole Life Carbon and how to achieve a net zero ‘Paris Proof’ approach which dictates that the Built Environment Industry should only use the limited amount of carbon – including energy and material resources – apportioned to it, in order for the UK economy as a whole to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and ensure best efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Embodied Carbon Reporting Template

To help understand the embodied carbon in a project, LETI have created a template that helps place a project against the LETI benchmarks, giving an indicative rating. This is a self-certifying process and requires users to complete all the elements of the template. If you do use the ratings given by this template, we request that you provide the underlying data in the form of this template to those who ask. This will enable the whole industry to improve our benchmarks, as well as provide an informal peer-review process.


Further information

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