Edinburgh consultant develops tools for carbon measurement which has already been used by contractor Willmott Dixon

An environmental consultancy has developed an online calculation method to calculate the embodied carbon dioxide in building materials.

The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Management, part of the Camco environmental group which also owns consultant ESD, said the tool would be a valuable aid to the construction industry. Richard Tipper, Director at ECCM, said, “We receive lots of enquiries from the construction industry, all wanting to understand and analyse the carbon dioxide emissions of the materials used in building - the building’s material footprint.”

The tool has already been used by contractor Willmott Dixon and architect White Design on the recently unveiled Re-Thinking School at the Offsite07 event. The scheme aimed to produce a low carbon, sustainable learning environment for pupils. Craig White, Director at White Design, used the Building Materials Carbon Calculator to assess the project’s footprint. He said: “A low embodied carbon dioxide footprint was one of the main drivers for the project which led the design and specification choices we made. The Carbon Calculator shows that overall, the project was actually carbon negative, unheard of in most modern school building, thanks to careful materials selection and design. We’re very proud of the 40.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide saved from emission to the atmosphere during the materials lives from cradle to site.”

ReThinking School at Offsite07
ReThinking School at Offsite07

The calculator allows users to type in the quantities for the materials used in each element of a building and then assesses the associated carbon dioxide using scientifically backed emissions data. It will take into account the amount of material used throughout the house, in the foundations, roof, frame, walls, flooring and insulation.

An example

A two-bedroom semi-detached house might use concrete in its foundations, along with hardcore, concrete slab, screed and extruded polystyrene in its flooring and wooden joists in the roof. The foundations and floor would be responsible for releasing 2.9 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere during production, delivery and installation. The timber joists absorb, so remove 0.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide. In total this building would produce 12.2 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The software also encourages users to reconsider and compare the materials they select in order to reduce a building’s carbon footprint. A spokesperson from the ECCM added: “We hope will encourage the industry all parts of the design process from architects to clients to constructors it will encourage them to think about the embedded carbon within their projects.”