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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R01468X/1
Title: Getting the numbers right and getting the right numbers: quantifying the embodied carbon of building structures
Principal Investigator: Pomponi, Dr F
Other Investigators:
D'Amico, Dr B
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Cambridge Architectural Research Limited Expedition Engineering Ltd Sainsbury's Property Company
Department: School of Eng and the Built Environment
Organisation: Edinburgh Napier University
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 February 2018 Ends: 30 April 2019 Value (£): 100,852
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Building Ops & Management
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Construction Environment
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
04 Oct 2017 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 4 October 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The buildings we live in, work in, and shop in all contribute to the UK's carbon emissions. In fact, they account for more than 40% of the total national emissions.

These emissions can be divided between operational and embodied emissions. The operational emissions are those related to running the building (e.g. heating, lighting) whereas the embodied emissions are those occurred in every activity necessary to extract and manufacture the raw materials, transport them on site, and assemble and maintain them up to the end of life disposal.

Embodied carbon emissions have a peculiar characteristic: once they have been emitted in the atmosphere there is no way back. Any intervention, even if beneficial in the future, instantly provokes an increase of the embodied carbon. This is why embodied carbon is so important: we need to reduce embodied emissions now or we simply will not be able to do it in the future.

The majority of the embodied emissions in buildings are often related to the building structure. This is because the structure generally takes up most of the building's total mass, and it is often made of materials that require a lot of energy (and therefore emit a lot of carbon) to be produced. It is therefore imperative to measure correctly the embodied carbon of building structures, in order to understand where the opportunities for carbon mitigation are and how to access the untapped reduction potential.

The project will seek to answer the following questions:

I. How do different materials affect the whole life carbon emissions of building structures?

II. What are the whole life carbon emissions of building structures for different building types in the UK?

This project will establish how different structural materials affect the whole life carbon emissions of building structures through rigorous numerical assessments across the main building types in the UK (i.e. residential, non-domestic). This shall move us away from the current 'sentimental' discourse over how green a material is to allow to choose the material with the lowest environmental impact over a building's life cycle for the specific project at hand. The aim is not therefore to promote one material over the others but rather to allow for informed decisions based on comparable assessments of the different materials by looking at the correct comparative unit, i.e. the building structure within a given building type.

The project will collect primary data from industry where no robust information is available on the carbon emissions of the different materials across their whole life cycle, and will adopt stochastic modelling and uncertainty analysis to produce probability distributions of the likely carbon emissions. This will contribute to superseding the current deterministic mind-set, which results in single-value assessments that are of very little use. The findings will be published as guidance to architects and designers, planners and policy-makers, and in the professional press, as well as in academic papers.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.napier.ac.uk