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.
Cover image: Arup’s retrofit of 1 Triton Square. Photograph by Simon Kennedy
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.
“Whole lifecycle carbon assessment is the next step that must be taken to unlock decarbonisation of the built environment at scale. Our commitment to undertaking whole lifecycle carbon assessment for all of our buildings work means that for the first time we will have the data to share with our clients and with industry partners about the precise actions to be taken to decarbonise buildings – new or existing – most effectively. ” – Alan Belfield, Chairman.
“Delivering net-zero buildings requires transformative action by industry leaders. Arup’s decision to incorporate whole lifecycle carbon assessment for all of its buildings commissions, and on a global basis, is game-changing and it will help to accelerate the buildings sector’s progress toward net zero. Arup’s decision is precisely the type of advocacy we encourage signatories of WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment to take. The Commitment now incorporates requirements to address embodied carbon as a part of a whole lifecycle carbon approach (3) ” – Cristina Gamboa, CEO of the World Green Building Council
Arup’s commitment to whole lifecycle carbon assessment is accompanied by significant investment in learning, tools, and training for its global teams to embed standardized methods for assessing whole lifecycle carbon.
Arup has also confirmed a new approach to its work for the energy sector. From next April, Arup’s energy commissions will focus entirely on low-carbon solutions, including wind, solar, hydroelectric, and hydrogen projects that it assesses as advancing progress toward a fully decarbonised future. From 1 April 2022, Arup will not pursue any new energy commissions that support the extraction, refinement, or transportation of hydrocarbon-based fuel, except the manufacture of hydrogen, which we consider a part of the transition to a net zero future.
Last year, Arup announced a commitment to achieve net zero across its global operations by 2030 (4). Today’s announcement specifically addresses for the first time the emissions from Arup’s client work across thousands of projects in 140 countries around the world.
¹ Global carbon emissions from buildings and construction were 37% of total emissions in 2019. Source: ‘2021 Global Status Report for Buildings and Construction’, Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction
² ‘Net Zero Buildings: Where do we stand?’, World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Arup
³ World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment. The Commitment requires that by 2030 all built assets under signatories’ direct control (a) reduce their energy consumption and eliminate operational emissions, and (b) new developments and major renovations under direct control are built to be highly efficient, powered by renewables, with a maximum reduction in embodied carbon and compensation of all residual, upfront emissions. In addition, signatories advocate for wider emission reductions via their business activities and report on their impact, as part of the sector-wide transition to net zero. See all signatories here.
4 Download Arup’s Net Zero Carbon Strategy
Article courtesy of Arup