7th September 2023

Carbon counting – How much carbon is in your building?

There are many benefits to tracking the carbon footprint of a building. Primarily, to identify how much carbon is in each of our projects, and to identify where we can make better design and material choices to reduce carbon wherever possible.

As a practice, we use industry approved carbon tracking software One Click to calculate embodied and whole life carbon on all our projects. We have used this software to record historic projects, and as a policy we review every project at each RIBA work stage. We want to record the process and actively track and improve on carbon reduction throughout the design process, to make as much impact as we can. On our more efficient buildings, eg to AECB standard or better, typically the embodied carbon is more than half the whole life carbon over the building’s lifecycle – and thus is vitally important to consider in design, whether for new build or retrofit.

Project Architect Carol Meteyard reflects on our journey so far of carbon tracking and using One Click:
After 18months of being OneClick users, we are reflecting on how we have evolved with how we use the software. Initially, we started testing the embodied carbon of historic projects, starting to get our heads around the figures, and then tested some scenarios on Houlton School, which was nearing completion. I feel we really started benefitting from the program on St Gabriel’s C of E school, where we were able to calculate the embodied carbon of the existing Phase 1 steel frame building, and being able to have a metric to compare the carbon impact of the new phase in either steel or CLT. Having directly comparable figures was useful for both ourselves, and our client, Urban & Civic, to be able to numerically track the environmental as well as financial costs of such decisions.

Using carbon tracking software has impacted how we review proposed change at VE and onsite. When alternative products are suggested by contractors, we always review the environmental impact of the change and highlight to the client how carbon targets are affected, to allow the team to make an informed decision.

At the end of every RIBA Stage we do a OneClick assessment, aware that this will not always be accurate with so many unknowns, but in an attempt to keep track as best we can.

Within the practice we will continue to develop our use of these new technologies as the carbon tracking field develops, but we believe strongly that it is our responsibility as architects, and Architects Declare signatories, to provide as much information as possible on the environmental impact of our buildings.