Ask ME about Embodied Carbon

What is Embodied Carbon?

Embodied Carbon is already well understood in some areas of the construction sector, in the use of materials such as concrete for example. However, the relative complexity of building services products has meant that carrying out embodied carbon assessments for this type of equipment is much more challenging, as they consist of multiple parts – often produced in different locations – before they are brought together in products such as AHUs, or VRF units.

Mitsubishi Electric aims to be transparent about the embodied carbon of its products and has been working to gather all necessary data to provide to our customers. We are examining raw material use by weight, transportation distances, and even the energy required to put components together. We then look at the lifetime of the equipment, as well as the proportion of recyclable components.

Lime Green Building

Regulating and measuring Embodied Carbon

In 2022, there is no regulation on embodied carbon. However, we are seeing growing interest in this information from building developers and owners. There is also a requirement for information on embodied carbon for certain new-build projects that fall under the London Plan.

There are moves underway to introduce part Z to Building Regulations which will address embodied carbon in the built environment. This is something the government is taking seriously.

CIBSE introduced TM65 in 2021. This offers a robust calculation method for estimating the embodied carbon within building services. Mitsubishi Electric is working to produce these for its product ranges.

Large Construction site with multiple cranes

Embodied carbon balanced with operational carbon

It is important to remember that embodied carbon is a significant factor in calculating the whole life carbon of a building. Most building services products have a lifetime of 15 years (or more if maintained correctly), whereas most buildings are designed to last for at least 60 years – meaning the embodied carbon cost of replacing this equipment at the end of the product lifetime must be considered when assessing the whole life carbon emissions for a building.

As a result, the balance between embodied carbon and operational carbon produced during their lifetimes is an important consideration for specifiers. Building Services to heat, cool and ventilate contribute significantly towards a building’s operational carbon emissions, but as the carbon intensity of the electricity grid reduces and technologies become more energy efficient this operational component of a building’s carbon emissions will reduce, prompting a further focus on the embodied element.

So, it is always important to consider the long-term energy efficiency of an HVAC product and keep that at the forefront of specifying decisions.

Container Ship Buildings