Why do you need Whole Life Carbon Assessment?

09.04.2021 3 min read

Whole Life Carbon (WLC) assessments relate to the operational emissions from energy use and embodied carbon during the lifespan of development, from its inception to decommissioning. Embodied carbon covers the carbon emissions from raw material extraction, manufacture of products, transport of materials, and the construction, maintenance, repair, replacement, demolition, and disposal of the development. The UN’s Global Status Report 2017 stated that buildings and construction are responsible for up to 39% of all carbon emissions worldwide, with 28% arising from operational emissions and 11% coming from embodied carbon.

The London Plan 2021 introduced a requirement that all planning applications referred to the Mayor should carry out a WLC Assessment and demonstrate actions taken to reduce carbon emissions at all stages of the development. WLC assessments are also recommended for any architect or developer who is keen to understand and minimise the carbon emissions associated with their designs/ buildings over the entire life cycle of the project. A WLC assessment allows a project’s design team to understand the environmental consequences of their decisions which may have previously been overlooked. This promotes durability, resource efficiency, reuse, and future adaptability, all of which contribute to lifetime carbon reductions and in turn directly benefit the environment. In the past construction processes and materials would be chosen based on cost, availability, and practicality, however, more recently it has been recognised that this is not a sustainable way to proceed into the future.

The purpose of a WLC assessment is to reduce and mitigate unnecessary carbon emissions from the earliest possible stages of a project through to the end of its life. This can be done by utilising measures such as innovative energy and heating systems, choosing building materials that are less carbon-intensive to produce, and designing a building so that it can be adapted and repurposed in the future.

BS EN 15978 and the RICS PS set out four stages of a project, which are known as life-cycle modules, and which must be presented discretely based on a building’s whole lifespan, which is now an average period of 60 years:

  • Product sourcing and construction: to reduce carbon emissions both at this and subsequent stages. Processes in fabricating products and methods of construction are important
  • Use: to understand how the building will perform, to minimise future emissions from maintenance, repair and replacement, and to minimise operational energy use via due consideration of the building’s overall resource efficiency
  • End of life: to capture the emissions from deconstruction and demolition, transport, waste processing for reuse, recovery or recycling and disposal, until the site is cleared, leveled, and ready for further use
  • Benefits and loads beyond the system boundary: to develop scenarios regarding what will happen to a building after it has been demolished or dismantled to facilitate future reuse, recycling or recovery. This and the previous module together form the circular economy module

Temple’s Climate Change and Carbon team are highly experienced consultants who work with clients to ascertain the embodied carbon as well as the operational carbon of potential development and identify the overall best-combined opportunities for reducing lifetime emissions. In doing so our clients are not only reducing carbon emissions but they are taking a lead in sustainable design and construction.

We have worked with a variety of clients on a range of large-scale housing and infrastructure projects across the UK. Our holistic approach enables cost-effective, best-fit strategies that are tailored to each client’s and project’s specific needs. We believe that by working collaboratively with our client we can bring about the best possible results for the environment whilst also ensuring the development meets the highest possible standards.

Key Contacts

Dr Xiangyu Sheng Director - Air Quality, Climate & Carbon
Howard Waples Director - Environment
Temple