Today, Arup has committed to undertaking whole lifecycle carbon assessments for all its buildings projects – new and retrofit – from next year.
The firm has also announced it will not be taking on any new energy commissions involving the extraction, refinement, or transportation of hydrocarbon-based fuels except the manufacture of hydrogen, which it considers a part of the transition to a net zero future.
Arup’s commitment to whole lifecycle carbon assessments is significant because the global built environment sector is the source of almost 40% of global carbon emissions (1). Yet it has been estimated that less than 1% of buildings projects are currently evaluated in a way that quantifies the scale and source of carbon emissions generated during their lifespans – a step that is essential if the most effective decarbonisation actions are to be identified.
Adopting whole lifecycle carbon assessment is the crucial next step that will allow the global buildings sector to progress toward 50% carbon emissions reduction by 2030, argues Arup, and to contribute meaningfully to the Paris Agreement’s goal of preventing global warming from exceeding 1.5°C.
Arup believes the insights it will gain from conducting thousands of whole lifecycle carbon assessments each year, from April 2022, will help the built environment sector advance toward net zero. It is also committed to developing a methodology to extend whole lifecycle carbon assessments to its infrastructure work for clients without delay.
Crucially, whole lifecycle carbon assessments incorporate both embodied and operational carbon. In a recent report, Arup and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development suggested that as much as 50% of the whole lifecycle carbon emissions from buildings come from embodied carbon – generated from the manufacturing and transport of materials and the construction process (2). Yet embodied carbon remains routinely overlooked by the built environment sector.